SAN ANTONIO – The wins keep piling up and the Spurs keep playing them down.
The Spurs will take a string of 19 consecutive victories — the fourth-longest winning streak in NBA history — into tonight’s Game 2 of the Western Conference finals (9 ET, TNT) against Oklahoma City, yet they remain less impressed with their growing mountain of success than the path still left to climb.
“When we are asked, we remember that we are on a great streak, but we really don’t care,” said Manu Ginobili. “We are close, seven games away from accomplishing something way bigger than a streak. If it’s happening, fine. But we always think about the next game and how tough it’s going to be.”
They are currently tied on the league’s all-time win streak list with the 2000 and ’01 Lakers and with a win tonight, the Spurs would join the 1971 Bucks as only the fourth team ever to win 20 straight games. The NBA record is 33 in a row by the ’72 Lakers, followed by the ’08 Rockets, who won 22 in a row.
But no matter how hard one tries, it’s impossible to get the Spurs to bite on acknowledging their accomplishment to date.
“Nobody’s going to say anything in the seventh inning,” said reserve guard Gary Neal, comparing the streak to a no-hitter in baseball. “Right now, we’re in the seventh inning. We got seven more outs.
“In the scheme of things, what’s a streak when you’ve won four championships? Everything here is always put in perspective. The leaders of our team, starting with Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich), Tim Duncan, Manu, Tony (Parker), they always do a great job of that, just keeping everything in perspective.
“If it doesn’t turn out the way we want it to turn out, with us winning the championship, nobody is going to talk about the streak or even care about the streak. Maybe after we complete our goals people will talk about the streak.”
Only two teams have had a longer streak than the Spurs’ current nine in a row to start the playoffs. The ’89 Lakers and the ’01 Lakers both won 11 straight to begin the postseason, but only one of those teams went on to win the championship. The ’89 Lakers were swept by Detroit in the NBA Finals.
“If we lose (tonight), then all that goes down the drain,” said Stephen Jackson. “What we’ve done up to this point doesn’t matter. We have to be ready to win Game 2.”