Spurs’ beauty is one for the books

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Spurs steamroll Thunder 112-77 for 2-0 series lead

SAN ANTONIO — Tick, tick, tick.

Tim Duncan has flecks of gray in the stubble on his face. Manu Ginobili’s hairline is sprinting a customarily frantic fast break in reverse on his scalp. Even the one-time teen-aged phenom Tony Parker has what polite company calls laugh lines running from the corners of his mouth.

Time waits for no one, not even the Spurs. Yet here is the so-called Big Three simultaneously pushing back against the sunset and deeper into the record book.

TimTonyManu.

The years have practically blended them together into one multi-syllabic name with a single identity.

They were together again in the fourth quarter Wednesday night, side by side on the Spurs’ bench, spectators to watch the mop-up crew in a 112-77 rolling of the Thunder that wasn’t that close.

It was their 111th playoff victory as teammates, leaping Duncan, Parker and Ginobili past Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper as the winningest postseason trio in NBA history.

Tick, tick, tick.

One minute an Argentine, a Frenchman and a swimmer from the Virgin Islands were learning the fundamentals of a basketball language and, a dozen years later, it is as if they were all born speaking a common tongue.

Everyone moves. Everyone cuts. Everyone passes the ball like it was radioactive. Everyone finds the open man. Everyone is for everyone.

There is a video tribute to the Spurs circulating online called “The Beautiful Game.”

Truth is, on nights like Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, all that’s missing are a sash, a tiara and a runway to show off their stuff.

Of course, the last time the Spurs held a 2-0 lead in this same round of the playoffs in 2012, they went to Oklahoma City and the bottom dropped out as they lost four straight and the series.

Not now.

The Thunder are playing without James Harden, gone off to Houston, and the fact that there are scant offensive options behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is obvious and makes it lopsided. That OKC is also playing without its shot-blocking, rim-protecting anchor in the middle Serge Ibaka, due to a calf injury, practically makes it unfair.

Tick, tick, tick.

There are explosive devices on timers up and down the Spurs’ roster. In Game 1, it was those huge paws of Kawhi Leonard that grabbed control and would never let go. In Game 2, Danny Green strafed them with seven 3-pointers that probably made the Thunder defenders want to hit the deck and just cover their heads.

It is simple, timeless, elegant basketball that can only come from years spent together and a core of star players who are unique in an era of free agent team-hopping and trophy-chasing.

“We take nothing for granted,” Parker said. “We know how lucky we are.”

The milestone as the winningest combination ever?

“Until you said it I have never heard about it, so I haven’t thought about it,” said Duncan. “It’s a wonderful accomplishment, as a lot of the things we’ve done as a trio. But our only focus, our only concern right know is winning this series and moving on.”

They have been able to keep moving — never once missing the playoffs in their dozen years together, seven times reaching the conference finals, four trips to the NBA Finals and three championships — because they have all chosen to give up some chunk of money and some piece of individual glory for the whole.

Durant and Westbrook bark and bicker at each other in timeouts and as they walk off the court at halftime. Meanwhile the Spurs could teach a barbershop quartet a thing or two about harmony.

None of them played as much as 30 minutes per game this season. Parker was their leading scorer with a meager 16.7 average. All of it to be ready for this time of the year and the playoffs.

“I always think about our guys and their stats,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “They really get screwed sometimes, playing for me. If you win 62 games, and some of them are by a decent margin, I bet our guys play fewer fourth quarter minutes than most good players on any team. I’d be willing to bet that. It hurts their stats, without a doubt, but luckily I’ve got players who don’t think about that.”

What they think about is the different ways and the different plays that can turn a 36-33 OKC advantage four minutes into the second quarter into a 58-44 lead by halftime that becomes a merciless chokehold.

Ginobili whips a left-handed pass to Green in the corner for a wide-open 3. Parker slices through the Thunder defense for devilish layups and feeds to his teammates. Even Tiago Splitter shows off his dishing skills with a nifty give-and-go play with Parker and then sets the table for Duncan right at the hoop.

It’s the beautiful game, the way the Spurs have been painting it with a master’s brush for years.

TimTonyManu.

While it’s fitting that they have their place in the record book, a gold frame would be more appropriate.

73 Comments

  1. Adam Brown says:

    Spurs are AWESOME with the best TRIO EVER

  2. Jesse Contreras says:

    The unselfishness of the boys and Pop’s pulling out the best of each individual makes the difference.

  3. Cedric says:

    And what if, for once, the NBA would reward a bunch of individuals for the MVP trophy? What about putting a ‘s’ in the players. To me the achievement of this trio this year is what one should call MVPs. So, if, as the writter argues, the three are now one, TimTonyManu should be the MVP of this season (and most probably of the playoffs).

  4. crissburton says:

    Go Spurs Go! Best team of the last 15 years. A true heir to Bulls dynasty

  5. dylan19 says:

    well…Great organization + Great Players = Spurs

  6. Houston SpursFan says:

    Last night brought back memories of a VERY young Tony Parker after a blowout playoff game, early in the series against (I wish I could remember who–the Mavericks, maybe). Someone asked him what the strategy would be for the rest of the series, and with a huge grin he cheerfully chirped, “No hope, man. We just want to give them no hope.”

  7. mrkeyman says:

    never write off the THUNDER 2-0 lead is not a safe lead…and the SPURS knew it too well…twice they squandered 2-0 playoff series lead: 2004 vs. LAKERS, 2012 vs. the same team THUNDER. they lost 4 straight each in that 2 playoff series

    • 36yrfan says:

      …Really ???? We didn’t know that already…………Hey there, keyman ….NO ” Venus Transit ” this year so that will NOT happen….. Plus that hanger-on Fisher used up ALLLLLLL of his luck on that “non-shot”….that they had to change the rules the next year to “allow” a catch and shoot with 0.4 seconds left on the clock…….Remember????

  8. okcDoke2014 says:

    Team ball equals Defense and Offense. Sours go all the way

  9. RICARDIO says:

    This all means: Pop, the best coach ever.

  10. Sriram says:

    Thank you for writing an article like this about the Spurs. I wish more people would appreciate that basketball is a team sport instead of praising individuals to lofty heights to the detriment of the team (like Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant etc).

  11. Lohit says:

    HEAT are the best

    • MR210 says:

      Heat are best in the East – and that ain’t saying much.

      Sorry – if they make it past the Pacers – they definitely won’t make it past the Spurs.

      No three-peat. And when Heat lose – LBJ is done. He had a nice run in the minor league that is Eastern Conference.
      Wade is declining…Bosh is good, but not great.

      I see LBJ leaving yet again!

      GO SPURS GO – DRIVE FOR FIVE!

      • Miami says:

        Your pretty excited to be beating a team without their number one interior defender! Lets not forget, a few years back that OKC won four games in a row against your Spurs to beat them in the West finals after they won the first two games i 2012. Don’t talk trash like you know the future because if the Heat were in the West, they probably would have a had a better regular season record because they play better against the Western conference than the Eastern Conference.Fact: record vs Eastern Conference was 34-18: 65% and record vs Western Conference 20-10: 67%. Heat play better when they are up against better teams and D.Wade missed 28 games this season. Wade maybe getting older but he still balling if you haven’t noticed this series and he has to share the ball with Lebron so of course his ppg went down.

      • 36yrfan says:

        “has to share the ball with bronbron”…. that is the funniest heat drivel I have heard yet…..lol…..lol….

      • 36yrfan says:

        If your heaters WERE in the west they wouldn’t even have home court in the first round……lol…..

      • dg says:

        It’s easier to beat good teams when you only play them once in a while. Plenty of time to prepare and energize while sleepwalking through the D league.

    • 36yrfan says:

      …..to you they are ….so go and tell that to your friends over on the bronbron lovin’ blogs……there are PLENTY of the to choose from !!

  12. Lohit says:

    Who cares what the spurs are n what their fans have to say… all of it is boring n so it shall remain… cant stand the spurs or never will like them tim duncan is the most laziest face one can see ever…. Heat is right treatment for spurs who will be grounded very soon…. its game over spurs…. Lets go HEAT….

    • 36yrfan says:

      so what does YOUR face look like ????

    • 36yrfan says:

      …if you don’t care…what are you doing her then???? isn’t there a bronbron lovin’ blog you can drool over somewhere…. and learn some english while you’re at it, OK???

    • timmied says:

      Lol…. heat were good for how long? Heat wont win last year….they got lucky last yr and spurs are on a mission..Thank god for the new luxury taxes…. makes it just a Lil harder for miami to buy championships from here on… Let’s see who’s willing to take paycuts…

    • dg says:

      Would you like Tim better if he performed a choreographed dance on the sideline, beat on his chest, flexed his muscles, bowed to the crowd, flopped, threw his arms up while sprinting all the way across the court after getting called for a foul and talked about himself endlessly?

  13. Ced says:

    I don’t understand why people still think after all these years t the Spurs are boring. They are a great team. Tony Parker is the best point guard in the NBA. D Rose, D Williams, CP3,Steve Nash, Westbrook, D Lillard , R Rondo, J Wall, S Curry will be all sitting at home watching him play in the NBA finals again. He never gets any credit and the Spurs don’t either. Best team in sports in the last ten years. Go spurs Go !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • MR210 says:

      People think Spurs are boring because people are dumb – they believe what the Media tells them.
      Those who call Spurs boring obviously don’t watch their games.

      I don’t think it’s boring the way they play team basketball and play unselfishly.
      Since when did averaging over 100+ points per game and winning become boring!?

      Over the years, Spurs have slowly gone from defensive 80-75 wins to offensive clinic 122-77 wins.

      Tony Parker driving the lane and spinning around best defenders in the league for a layup is exciting…
      Ginobili driving for a game-winning layup or last second three pointer is exciting…
      Danny Green/Patty Mills in transition for a pull-up three is exciting…
      Kawhi Leonard stealing/blocking and getting the ball and going coast-to-coast for a slam is exciting…
      Timmy still getting it done on pretty much one good leg is exciting…

      GO SPURS GO – DRIVE FOR FIVE!

  14. Roxanna S says:

    I absolutely love my SA Spurs!!! They are the true definition of a TEAM. Go Manu! Go Spurs!

  15. Nathan P. says:

    Lovely article, just one gripe: TimTonyManu do *not* have “five trips to the NBA Finals and four championships”. They have four trips to the Finals and three championships! Tim won his first championship with David Robinson, Sean Elliot, and Avery Johnson, with Tony and Manu still years away! Can’t forget those guys. :)

    • Polk says:

      The article did not mention that they have five finals trips and four championships. Fran clearly states….

      “They have been able to keep moving — never once missing the playoffs in their dozen years together, seven times reaching the conference finals, four trips to the NBA Finals and three championships — because they have all chosen to give up some chunk of money and some piece of individual glory for the whole.”

    • billyJ says:

      NathanP

      Need to check your Spurs stats. Article is correct. Five trips, four championships 99, 03, 05, 07 lost 2013.

  16. A says:

    I am a Blazer fan, but the Spurs have been my second favorite team since I started watching. I am happy to see that although everything else in the nba has changed since 2000, The Spurs haven’t at all. I called the Spurs beating the Pacers in the finals before the season started, and I know I most likely predicted the Spurs to win correctly.

    You have to love how the Spurs don’t have the LBJ or KD of the game, but they are smart enough and work together well enough to beat everyone. Pop is definitely the best coach to ever coach the game.

  17. Daniel says:

    great spurs!

  18. Georgie says:

    Beautifull article!!!! I love the Spurs and how they play. And they’re right, they play like no other team in the NBA! Go Spurs Go!!!!

  19. Steph says:

    The Spurs are the last players in the NBA who care more about the name un front of their jerseys than the name on the back.

  20. MR210 says:

    I love this game.

    Spurs can make you feel like you’re in the game…and then quickly come a knockout punch and it’s all over.

    OKC self destructing with their two Superstars barking at each other – feeling the pressure. OKC got all the calls in the first quarter…and were complaining the rest of the game. It’s like refs tried to keep OKC in the game…but realized it still wasn’t going to be enough.
    Helplessness can be a heavy burden – no matter what KD/Westbrook try to do – it won’t be enough.

    OKC better pray Spurs go ice cold in the next five games for OKC to even have a small glimmer of hope.

    Based on the way Spurs have played in the previous 7 of 8 games (which they’ve coincidentally won 7 of past 8 games) – it isn’t a fluke the way they’ve won – blowout double digits. That is Spurs basketball – that’s what they do.

    Spurs are healthy, and in playoff mode. Who is seriously going to stand in the way of the Championship – Pacers/Heat? No way.

    GO SPURS GO – DRIVE FOR FIVE!

  21. Stan says:

    What a Game 2….

    Well Game 2 has past….
    Anything and everything can happen in the next few games…
    Spurs are to stay focus to roll till the last… Evolving in every new game will make Spur unstoppable….

  22. John Kayee says:

    OKC will come back and win the series

  23. TMac says:

    I have nothing but respect for the Spurs. They are playing at a ridiculous level right now.

  24. Lance says:

    Great, well written article. Thank you for it.

  25. G R Srinivasan says:

    Sublime basketball. Need I say more ? And the on and off court behavior of the Spurs is in itself a lesson to all sportsmen, the way they go about playing the game with poise and dignity, respecting their teammates as well as their opponents.
    May they go all the way this year.

  26. thespectator says:

    scotty brooks is definitely gone, if im KD im thinkin either get me another super star player or im out, thunder may have speed, and athleticism and youth, but this stuff cant keep happening year after year, i kinda feel that the mvp award got robbed, mvps don’t get blown out back to back by 15+ points this deep in the playoffs…dont matter if its the spurs or not..

  27. Perla Manapol says:

    I am in my 70’s; I’ve been a Spurs fan since David Robinson was drafted; I’ve watched/read about Spurs wins while overseas (including receiving text messages over a cellphone held by a climber atop a coconut tree because that was the only place that could receive signals in the remote village), and my first gift to my day-old grandson was a Spurs jersey. Now, with this historic win – written about in the most lyrical prose I have ever read – I have decided to change my name to SPURla ManaSPUR :-)
    Oh, and by the way, isn’t it marvelous that the Big Three’s jersey numbers total 50 – the Admiral’s iconic jersey number?

  28. Max Gang says:

    I think it’s a bit unfair to portray Russ and Durant as always ‘barking’ and ‘bickering’ about each other when they are equally as committed to sharing the ball, playing with each other, and winning the game. Painting a picture of a seamless unselfish team versus a supposedly selfish one seems a bit forced, and shows too much of a willingness to indulge in media sensationalism and unfair caricatures of team dynamics. Just my opinion, Thanks.

    • 36yrfan says:

      How do you like those 360’s Parker puts on y’all’s lame defense???

    • 36yrfan says:

      RW never has shared the ball like a point guard….more like a black hole…..nothing gets out…. AND he has a lot of nerve to chastise KD publicly…..my guess is that he will be a former Thunder player after his summer fishing break…..

  29. lino says:

    “It’s the beautiful game…” a very nice article, mr. blinebury. game 2 goes back to timmy’s stare into the camera at the 5:26 mark in the first quarter of game 1, the death stare that can only leave players like westbrook and durant bickering with one another a game later. while athletically gifted, westbrook is in dire need of borrowing a page from the leadership book of los tres grandes. heck, give him a whole chapter.

  30. paul murray says:

    Admittedly I love the Spurs, but last night, that Game two performance took my appreciation to a whole new level. Even if you hate the NBA there were some plays in that game which should be put on a promotional video for the sport. If you don’t appreciate those performances, you don’t appreciate athletics!

    • ron says:

      Totally agree.
      Spurs play basketball as it should be, a team sport.
      In this ego grazed world. Le Bron and co get a lot of media coverage. The Spurs just do it all the right way, silently….

  31. Victor says:

    Nice article, Fran!

  32. MavsFan says:

    Ive always liked the beautiful game

  33. Chinmay says:

    Great article Fran….Spurs deserve all the credit in the world for being a model basketball team.

  34. Bruno dc says:

    Some people don’t realise in 2012 it wasn’t Ibaka who won the games in that series, people just talk about Ibaka , Ibaka, but was James harden who destroyed the spurs, and Danny green wasn’t as good he is today, k Leonard wasn’t as good as he is today, so the thunders don’t have no chance I’m sorry, Westbrook trying to take over the games not good enough, SPURS ALL THE WAY

  35. Yusa says:

    Spurs are at their average tier performance at the game 2 not the best but it’s decent. Look how the Spurs missed those open shots at early quarters. Pop was upset about it and his team knows it, they step up and play their normal game and win by a huge margin. On the other hand OKC is just terrible, simply terrible. I don’t know what Brooks’ plan, most of their shots are coming out from nowhere, pulled up jumper by KD and Westbrook and some terrible play that you can barely watch if you’re an OKC fan. No ball rotation most of the time. In addition you can see the frustration everywhere from OKC. Just because they lost Ibaka it doesn’t mean they can’t protect the paint/rim they showed better than what I expect, However the offense killed them everyone especially Westbrook is just throwing shot and blaming Durant for not stepping up his game. This also reminds me why OKC aren’t and will not be a champ.

  36. AL says:

    GO SPURS GO!!!

  37. garrett says:

    Beautifully written article about a beautifully playing team. Their offense really is a symphony – no dissonance. It’s been a pleasure watching them for over a decade.

  38. misha says:

    maybe its unpopular opinion, but i think the way spurs play is more thrilling than any of blake dunks

  39. Akshay Jain says:

    Indeed, this was a historic win. If i am not wrong, it was a highest score defeat in any of the playoffs games. A 35 point defeat absolutely shows a great team effort. Hope to see the glory continues till the end of season.

  40. Akshay Jain says:

    Indeed, this was an historic win. If i am not, its a highest score defeat in any of the playoffs games. A 35 point defeat absolutely shows a great team effort. Hope to see the glory continues till the end of season.

  41. recom says:

    see, nobody cares!

  42. KingdomMan says:

    Everything revolves around Duncan. It’s funny as I remember when Shaq & (especially) Kg used to disrespect TD. Where are they now?

    • Wilson says:

      Shaq was absolutely unstoppable at the rim in his prime. He just dominated Duncan during the 00-02 Lakers reign. So I guess Shaq has earned his right to make his comment. But certainly not the case in KG. History will tell stories of Duncan’s own greatness: arguably the most versatile big man, the stability he brings to the Spurs roster, his unflagging work ethic, and his leadership to make his teammates better. And most importantly, Duncan is that quiet, nice family man that many of us look up to.

      • sdf says:

        It was Kobe being guarded by Antonio Daniel & the fact his supporting was very mediocre that hurt Tim against the Lakers in 2001 & 2002. Shaq actually has his lowest career average against the Spurs & Tim has BADLY outplayed him in 1999/2003/2008.

      • 36yrfan says:

        ….plus the Admiral was injured one of those years as well

    • 36yrfan says:

      ….O’neil is making jokes on high salary on TV and that KG guy…..well, he has Always been over-rated and doesn’t know when to ‘hang it up’…..

      • clips city says:

        Agree kg does not know he is just a pathetic player now as where Tim is still putting up decent # but I really don’t think stats matter Tim plays To help his team unlike the others who play for the money like kg who might come back just for the money where he can barley get a rebound