Spurs steamroll into West semis on 14-game streak
No early playoff collapse this time. No skeptics doubting
whether they’re really the caliber of a No. 1 seed. No injuries to
Not a single loss in the last month.
By practically any standard, the San Antonio Spurs are
dominating and doing so at a pace that few NBA teams have sustained
into the playoffs, returning home Tuesday with a 14-game winning
streak after sweeping Utah in the most lopsided series yet this
”You know what?” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said before leaving
Salt Lake City, ”We got a team here.”
San Antonio finished off the Jazz on Monday night, and could
have as long as a week to rest before starting the Western
Conference semifinals against either Memphis or the Los Angeles
Clippers. The Clippers lead that series 3-1 and get their first
crack at advancing Wednesday. If Memphis hangs on to the brink, the
Spurs may not host Game 1 until next Tuesday.
Here’s what the Spurs can reflect upon in the meantime: They
haven’t lost since April 9, and since then, they’re winning by an
average margin of 17 points. The NBA’s running punch line for being
too old and frail – a worn-out joke that’s now a misnomer, really –
is now one of only six teams since 1986 to maintain an overall
winning streak this long in the playoffs.
It’s almost enough to make the Spurs feel confident returning to
the second round, particularly after not even surviving the first
last year despite being the No. 1 seed then, too.
Almost enough, anyway.
”As usual,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about the next
series, ”scared to death.”
Popovich knows history is maybe the only thing the Spurs don’t
have going for them. As invincible as San Antonio has looked for
the past month, Popovich has helmed an even hotter team in the
postseason – only to lose in the West semifinals, exactly where
these Spurs are headed next.
That was in 2004, when the Spurs finished the regular season on
an 11-game tear, followed by six mostly blow-out wins to start the
playoffs. But that 17-game winning streak came to a screeching halt
by Game 3 of the second round against the Lakers, who won the next
four on their way to the NBA finals.
Just as they remain eight years later, Duncan, Tony Parker and
Manu Ginobili were all the leading scorers on that 2004 team.
Ginobili, at the time, was left afterward sorting out the
difference between ”failure and disappointment.”
After closing out the Jazz 87-81 on Monday – only the third time
in the past month the Spurs haven’t won by double-digits – Ginobili
struck a tone of cautious optimism.
”We had great additions late in the season to make us even
better. Our defense is slowly improving,” Ginobili said. ”I think
we are a little better, but the league is so tough. Anybody can
beat the other team.”
Few know that better than the Spurs. Blowing out Utah helped
them exorcise any lingering demons from Memphis stomping out their
61-win season in the first round last year. Proclaiming the demise
of the four-time champion Spurs has become a tradition since their
last title in 2007, and the death rattle never sounded louder than
following that humbling exit to the Grizzlies.
Whether the next round brings a rematch with Memphis or a date
with the Clippers, the Spurs were a combined 7-1 this season
against both. The only loss was to the Clippers at home in March,
when Parker didn’t play because of a sore thigh.
No injuries are shackling the Spurs this time.
No guarantees, either.
”We didn’t accomplish anything. We just passed the first
round,” Parker said. ”We can be happy, but tomorrow is a new day,
and it’s going to be even harder.”