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Parker says he hopes to play Game 4

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) - San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker says his sore right hamstring has a ``slight elongation'' and that he hopes to play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

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Parker tweeted in French on Wednesday that he had an MRI earlier in the day that showed the strain.

``We'll see tomorrow how I feel,'' Parker tweeted. ``I really hope to play!!!''

Parker was injured early in the second half of Game 3, which the Spurs won 113-77 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series over Miami. He was limited to six points and eight assists in 27 minutes and left the game early in the fourth quarter with the outcome already decided.

Parker's injury somewhat muted the celebration in San Antonio following the Spurs' decisive bounce-back victory that put them two wins shy of the franchise's fifth championship.

While the Spurs' role players have been playing incredibly well in these finals, they know they will need Parker's leadership, guts and unparalleled mastery of the pick-and-roll to bury LeBron James and the Heat. Danny Green, Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard have been revelations so far in this series, scoring the same number of points (130) through the first three games that the Heat's vaunted trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have managed.

Neal filled in brilliantly for a slowed-down Parker on Tuesday night, scoring 24 points and hitting six 3-pointers to pick up the slack. The Spurs have two more games at home - on Thursday and then Game 5 on Sunday - to try to close out the Heat and avoid having to head back to Miami.

But it still feels like a long way to go, because Parker is the engine that keeps this precision machine humming. He entered his fourth NBA Finals at the height of his powers, asserting himself as the best point guard in the game by carrying the Spurs into a showdown with Miami.

As important as his scoring and distributing have been for the Spurs, the confidence he instills with his steady hand on the throttle may be even bigger. The Spurs aren't big on swagger, but they play with a different demeanor when he's on the court slicing and dicing opposing defenses.

If Parker has to miss Game 4, it no doubt would inject some life into a Heat team that was dazed and staggered in Game 3. A team that won 66 games in the regular season, including 27 straight at one point, and entered the playoffs as the prohibitive favorite to repeat as champions found itself down by 37 points - 37! - at one point in a 113-77 loss.

Not seeing Parker on the floor on Thursday night changes everything.

``He is the head of their snake,'' Heat guard Mario Chalmers said. ``I feel like that. The whole team feels like that.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
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