SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Tony Parker emerged from the San Antonio Spurs' first-round victory over Phoenix bumped and bruised after going against the Suns' big men for five games.
The Spurs' speedy point guard said it almost makes him feel old.
``It's just hard to get up in the morning,'' Parker said. ``But once I get up I try to get warm and try to get in the hot tub. The hot tub is my best friend right now.''
He may be sore, but teammates say Parker is playing as well as he did last season when he was the finals MVP in the Spurs' sweep of Cleveland.
``He's playing with the kind of confidence he was playing with last year,'' Tim Duncan said. ``I think that's the only way to put it. He's confident in himself, he's confident in his shot. He wants to step up and take big shots. He wants to run the offense.''
Parker showed it during Game 3 against the Suns in Phoenix, when he scored a career-high 41 points by relying on spot-on jumpers to lead the Spurs to what became an insurmountable 3-0 series lead.
``If it wasn't for Tony we'd probably still be playing Phoenix right now,'' veteran Robert Horry said. ``In Game 3, he came out and played the best game of his life, hitting jumpers. And that was the key. Most people know that he's going to get to the paint and get layups but he's coming out and knocking out Js, which made it a lot easier for us.''
And in many ways, easier for him, too. Driving the lane and getting to the rim - something the agile and acrobatic Parker is known for - was when he picked up most of his nicks. In Game 1 he took a knee to the head and in Game 2 he ran hard into Phoenix's Shaquille O'Neal, then fell to the floor holding his side.
``Hopefully I can get through that (next) round with no bruises and no hits,'' Parker laughed. ``That'd be nice.''
The Frenchman is leading the Spurs in the playoffs with 29.6 points to go with 7.0 assists. In the series-ending Game 5 against Phoenix on Tuesday night, he led San Antonio with 31 points, including nine in the decisive fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-2 guard sat out practice on Thursday to rest up for the Western Conference semifinals against New Orleans, when he'll be half of a featured matchup with Hornets point guard Chris Paul.
``I just want him to get to 100 percent and be ready to do the same thing he did in the last series,'' Horry said.
The two-time All Star has been with San Antonio for three of its four title runs: 2003, 2005 and 2007. He's in his seventh year in the league, but will turn just 26 on May 17.
He's already coming off a season that will be hard to top. After the Spurs won the title and Parker picked up the finals MVP award, he had a storybook wedding to actress Eva Longoria - now Eva Longoria Parker - in France last July.
``He's improved steadily every year and then he's gotten to the point where he's one of the NBA's elite point guards,'' Duncan said. ``And at 25 that's a great thing to have leading your team.''
Bringing Parker to the point of leader wasn't always easy under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who Duncan said ``threw fire'' at Parker.
Parker joked - or maybe not - that sometimes he wanted to cry in those early years because his best never seemed good enough.
Popovich conceded that maybe he was tough on Parker early, but that's long since past as Parker's come into his own.
``He'll have ideas that are better than mine or I may have a suggestion and he may have a different one. But I respect that now and we really work together in that regard,'' Popovich said. ``He's got the ball and he's running the show out there.''

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