Monday’s victory was a statement for many things: Tony Parker’s greatness, Tim Duncan’s longevity, Gregg Popovich’s tactical genius. More than anything, however, it was a testament to something not often found in the high-stakes, win-now world of professional sports: Patience. The Spurs stuck with Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili even when logic said they shouldn’t. And now they reap the benefit with their first Finals appearance in six years and their fifth in 15.

“We’re a team that’s probably been written off…and that seems logical,” Popovich said. I might have said the same thing if I was a fan on the outside looking in. But it doesn’t show the way these guys compete and what they think. If you stay the course, and you have leaders who are quality character people, you follow them for as long as you can.”

Said Parker, “It’s unbelievable feeling. It’s really hard to go the Finals, to win a championship. I was 21 when I won my first one. You think it’s easy. And six years go by, and every year it gets tougher and tougher. That’s what makes it even more special to go back after all those years, with the same coach and the same big three.”

Player of the game

Parker played so well during the regular that almost no one batted an eye when Popovich declared he was playing as well as any point guard in the NBA. Indeed, his three-month stretch before he sprained his ankle in early March might have been the best of his entire career.

He was never better this season than Game 4, pouring in a campaign-high 37 points on 15-of 21 shooting against the league’s second-ranked defense. The Grizzlies had two All-Defensive team guards in Mike Conley and Tony Allen, and the Defensive Player of the Year lurking in the paint, yet none of them had any answer for Parker.

Not in Game 4, nor at any point in the series, during which he averaged 24.5 points on 53.2-percent shooting with 9.5 assists, including a career-high 18 in Game 3. If it wasn’t the best individual playoff series of his career, the list of candidates is extremely short.

“He was outstanding the whole series,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “He controlled the series with his penetration. He made shots, made plays. One game he has 18 assists. Today he has 37 points. He was huge.”