The Starting Five: Spurs showing signs of vulnerability, or are they?

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are among the Spurs who have been short of championship form in the first four games against the Clippers.

Soobum Im/Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

While Meyers Leonard continues his transformation into the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, these other burning issues just won’t go away.

The expected first-round skirmish — co-starring the Los Angeles Clippers and defending-champion San Antonio Spurs — has arrived.

We’re on the cusp of Game 5 in L.A. with the teams deadlocked at 2-2 and the Spurs, once again, almost begging observers to pronounce them doomed.

This has transpired just one game after the Clippers — and their superstars’ burden of playoff proof — started rolling toward the abyss . . . again.

Anyway, with two of the NBA’s greatest commercial pitch men seemingly ready to give the Clippers a 3-2 advantage, let’s look at some numbers produced by the Spurs.

Tony Parker, for example, just ain’t right. The injury-riddled former Finals MVP is giving the Spurs 8.8 points per game in this series (10 fewer than his career playoff average) and making 39 percent of his shots from the field.

He’s not alone. The great Manu Ginobili (7.8 points, 37.5 percent) and proven playoff marksman Danny Green (6.5, 29 percent) are struggling, too.

Tim Duncan required one 28-point salvo to put his four-game average at a 16.3 that’s fortified by 50 percent shooting from the free-throw line.

With Kawhi Leonard in the lead, can they rise again?

Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll is a late-developing outside shooting threat.

The Atlanta Hawks are a telling example that the players who arrive at the NBA level are not exactly finished products.

DeMarre Carroll, a defensive-oriented small forward, made 40 percent of his attempts behind the 3-point arc this season. Two years earlier, he shot a chilly 28.6 on 3s for the Utah Jazz. As a collegian at Missouri, he connected on 17 percent during his junior year.

See, once players reach the NBA and shooting accurately becomes part of their job description, they can get better at it.

Hawks teammate Paul Millsap allegedly could make 3s in practice but was encouraged to stay closer to the hoop in Utah, where he attempted just 113 3s combined over his first seven seasons. But he’s fired up 200 or more in each of his two seasons in Atlanta, making a reasonable – and space creating — 36 percent of those.

By the way, Millsap attempted all of 16 3s — from college ball’s closer range — over three seasons at Louisiana Tech.

And let’s not forget Orlando Magic veteran Channing Frye.

Frye attempted 23 3-pointers as an Arizona Wildcat and just 70 in his first four seasons in the NBA.

But encouraged to step out by Coach Mike D’Antoni, Frye let it fly 392 times during his first season in Phoenix. He converted 44 percent and now sort of defines the stretch-four position. 

Skal Labissiere has moved to the top of the potential one-and-done charts for the 2016 draft.

With smoke clearing after a marathon of postseason high school individual showcase events, a change at the top of the presumptive NBA Draft list for 2016 has happened.

Kentucky-bound power forward Skal Labissiere, a 6-foot-11 prospect with some bounce, a really nice jump shot and a competitive streak, has emerged, for now, as a strong suspect for the overall No. 1 selection next June.

Labissiere, who was born in Haiti and has been playing at a private school in Memphis, still has to be cleared by the NCAA before being allowed to play for John Calipari at Kentucky next season. If not, he might have to go the Emmanuel Mudiay rout and play professionally for one season in Stephon Marburyland, also known as China.

Among recruiting services and some NBA sharpies, Labissiere has overtaken Ben Simmons (LSU signee) as top dog in the prep class of 2015, which — according to league talent snoops — isn’t expected to ignite the passions of talent scouts as much as recent years.

But that could happen a year down the road, when the talent pool might include the likes of Harry Giles (versatile, very bouncy 6-10 kid from North Carolina), point guard Dennis Smith (also from NC), St. Louis winger Jayson Tatum, forward Justin Jackson (prep schooling in Napa), Arkansas two-guard Malik Monk and Terrance Ferguson, a Dallas prep school forward with amazing ups.

Gentlemen, start your tanks.

Kevin Love is a goner in Cleveland . . . at least — it seems — for the rest of the Cavaliers’ playoff run.

Thanks to a Game 4, loose-ball incursion from Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics, Love and his shoulder will be unable to assist LeBron James in his mission to bring a trophy to Cleveland.

Ironically, this locking-arms injury occurred on the same day it was reported Love really does have interest in signing with the Celtics this summer. Hours later, he accused one of Boston’s players of hurting him on purpose. That’s not a recommended recruiting tactic.

The Los Angeles Lakers allegedly have remained much in the running for Love by using the tried-and-true recruiting scheme of being so lousy that even Kobe Bryant will allow the next free-agent hire to shoot.

In other free-agent gossip involving top-tier power forwards, the 0-3 postseason start for Portland Trail Blazers provoked still more persistent chatter regarding a possible destination change for 30-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge.

The San Antonio Spurs are supposedly clearing the decks to re-sign Kawhi Leonard to a max deal in addition to taking a big swing at Aldridge, who grew up in Texas.

The Houston Rockets somehow will manipulate their roster into clearing cap space, as will Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks.

By the way, the Lakers — the supposed landing spot for about a dozen elite FAs — also are being mentioned.

The Warriors and Grizzlies appear headed toward a Ferrari-vs.-cement-mixer battle in the Western Conference semifinals.

Now that the top-seeded Golden State Warriors have finished a first-round sweep, and the fifth-seed Memphis Grizzlies have a 3-1 lead in theirs, we’re very close to witnessing a Ferrari vs. Cement Mixer battle in the Western Conference’s second round.

Let’s all hope Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (broken face) can return and play at anywhere near his typical level if Memphis goes through.

With regular-season metrics as our guide, the flashy-yet-defensively-advanced Warriors check in first among NBA teams for quickest pace (possessions per 48 minutes), while the grindhouse Grizzlies were a lumbering 26th.

Although both teams are elite defensively — Golden State No. 1 for efficiency and Memphis checked in tied for third — one long-advertised aspect of playoff basketball seems to be skewing in the Grizzlies’ favor.

During their first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Warriors were only 13th among playoff teams in pace. It seems a bit interesting, although they did manage that sweep. Perhaps they can thrive at any tempo.

And the walk-the-chalk Grizzlies put up 104 points per game in their first three wins over a Portland team that seemed to lose interest in defending as the year progressed.

Anyway, if Charles Barkley is right about jump-shooting teams meeting their comeuppance in the postseason, this might be a good place to begin.

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