x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

San Antonio Spurs’ alarm clock set for play-offs

Every time Tim Duncan and Company start looking mortal and seem to be letting Father Time catch up to them, they revert to being the same old dominant, machine-like San Antonio Spurs.

So interchangeable are the parts San Antonio has that neither Tim Duncan, left, or Tony Parker, right, need be the Spurs' primary scoring threat in a game. Steve Dykes / AFP
So interchangeable are the parts San Antonio has that neither Tim Duncan, left, or Tony Parker, right, need be the Spurs' primary scoring threat in a game. Steve Dykes / AFP

Surprise, surprise. The San Antonio Spurs appear unstoppable again.

Every time Tim Duncan and Company start looking mortal and seem to be letting Father Time catch up to them, they revert to being the same old dominant, machine-like Spurs.

It is like clockwork.

Or maybe they just get a kick out of making everyone think they are vulnerable.

It was reasonable to wonder whether San Antonio was, indeed, vulnerable following an iffy first-round series against the good, but not great, Dallas Mavericks.

The Spurs, the league’s fifth-oldest team, were pushed to seven games.

It is always reasonable to wonder when the Spurs start to slip if this time it is for real.

And always reasonable to think about how silly that thought was once they inevitably return to form.

Paired up with the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the NBA play-offs, San Antonio have hit top form, leaving the feisty upstarts from Portland eating their dust.

In racing to a 3-0 series lead, they won by 24 points, 17 and 15.

Coach Gregg Popovich figured out exactly how to plan for the Blazers and exploit a sometimes hasty, mistake-prone team.

In those three wins, the Spurs committed 20 fewer turnovers than their opponents (27 to 47). In this series, Duncan has been comfortable in more of a contributor role as Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard have taken on the primary scoring duties for the starting unit.

The thing about the Spurs, though, is that they can easily flip this dynamic for the Western Conference finals.

This is the league’s best-functioning squad.

It is entirely possible that we might look up in a week and see the hapless Danny Green – remember him? – scoring 25 a night against the Thunder or Clippers.

Maybe Leonard will bypass scoring altogether and put his efforts into shutting down Kevin Durant or Blake Griffin.

Maybe Duncan will score 35 points and grab 20 rebounds just to show he still can.

Perhaps instead, Manu Ginobili or Boris Diaw or Patty Mills will come off the bench and score 25-plus.

Or maybe Parker will just continue his play-off scoring binge.

Unfortunately for the Blazers, they have taken a crash course in learning that you never really know how the Spurs will choose to do things, but that they will usually find a way to do them right.

jraymond@thenational.ae

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