SAN ANTONIO — In the midst of a resounding and redemptive victory, the Spurs' celebration came to an abrupt stop when Tony Parker was carried off the court with what appeared to be a serious left leg injury.
Kawhi Leonard had 34 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and San Antonio battled through the loss of Parker to beat the Houston Rockets 121-96 on Wednesday night and even the Western Conference semifinals at one game apiece.
Parker departed with 8:43 remaining. Spurs officials said the 16-year veteran will undergo an MRI on Thursday morning and will update his status after, but San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said following the game that "it's not good."
Teammate Manu Ginobili said Parker was still hurting and unable to put any weight on his left leg after the game.
"It's hard to see him limping and hurting now," Ginobili said. "You kind of know that we're not going to see him anytime soon. So, that's a tough blow. We'll see, we don't know."
Parker's left leg appeared to go limp as he rose to attempt a short jumper in the paint over Houston's Patrick Beverley with 8:52 remaining. Parker grabbed his left knee immediately upon landing and remained on the court for a few minutes. The 34-year-old attempted to limp off the court, but had to be carried off by teammates. Stadium officials had a wheelchair waiting for Parker after he entered the tunnel that leads to the locker room.
Parker finished with 18 points in 26 minutes.
The injury dampened a complete turnaround for the Spurs, who responded to a 126-99 defeat Monday with a similar domination in Game 2.
"I think we were able to get a feel for them in the first game," Leonard said. "Just trying to contest all shots, limit them to one possession, don't let them rebound the basketball on the offensive end and just get them off the 3-point line."
The Spurs limited James Harden to 13 points on 3-for-17 shooting.
"I just missed shots," Harden said. "I missed shots. I didn't convert my layups. We knew they were going to come out with some aggressiveness in Game 2."
The Rockets shot 11 for 34 on 3-pointers after going 22 for 50 in Game 1.
"They came out with a lot of energy," said Beverley, who had 12 points. "They came out with a lot more fight."
Popovich started Pau Gasol in place of David Lee to give the Spurs another outside shooter in the starting lineup and it paid off early. San Antonio shot 62 per cent in the opening quarter and finished shooting 54 per cent .
LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points after being limited to four in the opener, and Danny Green added 12.
"We played a lot smarter than we did in Game 1," Green said. "We played at our pace, not theirs. Passed the ball, found each other, moved a lot better with more of an old Spurs basketball."
Rockets: Houston had scored 100 points in every playoff game this season. ... Harden entered Wednesday averaging 31.0 points, 8.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds this post-season . Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is the only player to average 31 points, 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in a single post-season , doing so in 1991. . The league fined Nene $15,000 for "escalating an altercation" after grabbing Dewayne Dedmon by the throat in Game 1 while the Spurs centre was jawing with Harden. Nene was ejected from the game.
Spurs: Leonard tied his post-season high with 20 points in the first half as the Spurs opened up a 65-55 lead. . Parker joined longtime teammate Tim Duncan as the only players born outside the United States to score 4,000 points in the post-season . Parker, Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are also the only players in league history with at least 4,000 points and 1,000 assists. .. Parker and Ginobili won their 131st post-season game as teammates, matching the league record held by Parker and Duncan.
Parker's injury came as he was enjoying a revival after struggling for much of the season.
His 18 points marked the sixth time in eight post-season games that he has scored 15-plus points after doing so just 16 times in 63 regular-season games.
"He has the presence just like T.D. (Duncan) had that presence," said Patty Mills, who could start in Parker's absence. "He was rolling the last month going back to his old self."
Mills said he is not sure who will start at point guard if Parker is unable to play in Game 3, but said the team is ready to step up if needed.
"But I can tell you one thing, that we're all ready," Mills said. "We're all ready to step up and make an impact."
JUICE IS LOOSE
Spurs reserve Jonathon "Juice" Simmons provided a lift, scoring consecutive baskets at the close of the third quarter and then opening the fourth by diving into the front row of seats to save a loose ball that led to Ginobili's layup. On the ensuing possession, Simmons completed a three-point play off a dunk.
Simmons finished with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 20 minutes.
Raul Dominguez, The Associated Press