The San Antonio Spurs were not supposed to be this good this season. Tim Duncan is supposed to be too old, Manu Ginobili is supposed to be too injured, and the supporting cast is supposed to be unproven.
If we keep ignoring the Spurs they may just make all of us look real silly.
The Spurs, the Western Conference’s top-seeded team, completed their four-game sweep of the Clippers with a 102-99 win in Game 4 at Staples Center and they did it in surgical fashion.
The Spurs gave the Clippers something old and something new during the series.
Duncan turned back the clock with a 26-point, 10-rebound performance in Game 1, had 19 and 13 in Game 3, and had 21 and nine in the series clincher. He looked like the Tim Duncan of old instead of an old Tim Duncan.
Ginobili, who has struggled with all sorts of ailments the past two seasons, looked healthy and spry. His best game came in Game 1 when he scored 22 points, making three of eight 3-pointers.
The new face in the Spurs’ playoff machine came in the form of rookie forward Kawhi Leonard. The San Diego State standout scored 16 points, making three 3-pointers, and grabbed six rebounds in Game 1. He had 14 points, nine rebounds, and two steals in Game 3. Leonard was also superb on defense, a role Bruce Bowen played so well for coach Gregg Popovich.
“He seems to have a pretty good knack for the ball,” Popovich said of Leonard. “He makes a steal here and there; he’ll get an offensive board here and there; he’ll get a block now and then. Obviously he’s a rookie and he’s still figuring out what his game is, but he does things that help win basketball games.”
Another new face who contributed mightily to the Spurs cog is Danny Green. The third-year man out of North Carolina was 11-for-19 from behind the arc and was double figures in three of the four games.
The Clippers entered the series on an emotional high, winning Game 7 in Memphis. But the Spurs are at a totally different level than the Grizzlies.
San Antonio is much more disciplined on defense and far more efficient on offense. When the Clippers appeared to be well on its way to a Game 3 win, the Spurs rallied and put together a head-turning 24-0 run in the third quarter that sapped the energy out of Staples Center.
All those jump shots Chris Paul made off pick-and-rolls against Memphis were taken away. All those easy dunks Blake Griffin got against Memphis was noticeably absent for much of the series.
The Spurs have now won 18 straight games and await the winner of the Lakers-Thunder series. Game 1 of the Western Conference finals will be played in San Antonio.