NBA

Lucky 7? Spurs feeling comfortable as seventh seed

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SAN ANTONIO (AP)

Calling the Spurs perhaps the best No. 7 seed in NBA history is growing into a fashionable opinion.

``That's not a compliment, is it?'' Tim Duncan shot back.

Doesn't mean it might not be true.

The Spurs rested Friday while awaiting the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals that begin Monday. The Spurs advanced as just the fifth No. 7 seed to win a playoff series - and the first since the opening round became a best-of-seven in 2003.

But San Antonio resembled no underdog while booting Dallas in six games.

It sent the second-seeded Mavs into an offseason that will likely be wrought with uncomfortable questions about their diminishing window for a championship, difficult roster decisions and looking back on swelling the payroll this year for a run that quickly fizzled out.

In other words, the summer San Antonio was careening toward most of the year.

``First 60 (games), I tell you, I was hesitant,'' Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. ``I wasn't sure that we had it in us. We were not having our best season. We were not approaching the games the right way.''

Almost everything the Spurs did looked wrong until March.

Richard Jefferson's early disappointment after trading for his big contract. A winning record inflated by victories over losing teams. Twenty different lineups before Tony Parker broke his hand in March, when the Spurs finally stumbled into a Ginobili-driven combination that worked.

It's why the Spurs couldn't do any better than the No. 7 seed, and even after finishing off the Mavericks on Thursday night, Duncan maintained that the Spurs deserved to be there after putting together the worst of his 13 seasons in San Antonio.

And yet the Spurs still are still around, reaching the second round for the 11th time in that span.

``We earned that seventh seed,'' Duncan said. ``We got put where we're supposed to be because we didn't have a very good season. But we cleaned it up a little with this first series and we hope to continue that.''

Only one No. 7 seed has ever lasted beyond the conference semifinals: the 1987 Seattle Supersonics, who finished the regular season 39-43 but pulled off two playoff upsets before getting swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.

The other seventh seeds to survive the first round were the Chris Mullin-led Golden State Warriors in 1989 and 1991, and the 1998 New York Knicks. Each went on to lose 4-1 in the second round.

But they prevailed in best-of-five opening rounds that left more room for upsets, if only because the underdog needed to win three times instead of four.

The Spurs had three wins on the Mavs after just four games.

``No matter who we play from here on out - unless the Bucks make it to the Finals and we can, too - we're not going to have home court,'' Jefferson said. ``We have a big task in front of us no matter who we play.''

Like the Mavs, the Suns are another familiar Spurs playoff foe. Phoenix has lost four consecutive playoff series to San Antonio since 2003, and the Spurs have ousted the Suns on their way to each of their last three championships.

The last time the Suns beat the Spurs was the opening round in 2000 - which Duncan sat out of the postseason with a bad knee and Phoenix won in four games.

``For a seventh seed,'' Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said Friday, ``they're obviously very, very good.''

Duncan and the Spurs are learning not to hear that as an insult.

``OK,'' Duncan said. ``I'll take it.''

Tagged: Spurs, Tim Duncan

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