Banner this — Spurs earned the series

Column by Buck Harvey

Someone put in a work order, and someone pulled down the banner. Then, someone added this to the bottom of the list:


Someone pulled the banner back to where it had been, high on one end of the ATT Center. And, with that, the Spurs had announced they had won another division title.

Someone might have noticed.

But, this time, the Spurs need to do more to show what they accomplished in the regular season.

The playoffs suggest as much.

There was a time the Spurs hung individual banners every time they came in first in their division. There was also a time when the Spurs had never won an NBA title.

But as the years passed, and their standards changed, so did their sense of success. Now they stencil in the next divisional title with the casualness of a prisoner marking off another day on the calendar. This season they won their 18th.

It doesn’t mean much. Furthermore, winning the division had little to do with what they actually accomplished, which was securing the No. 1 seed.

But this is the only way the Spurs publicly note a successful regular season, and this one was that and more. The Spurs rose at the end, drawing Utah, and the contrast to that is clear.

Anyone else watching Oklahoma City play Dallas?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Gary Neal said, nodding his head. “There’s a difference.”

Neal went out of his way not to disrespect the Jazz. He knows, as his teammates do, there will be challenges in Utah.

But isn’t it clear to everyone? The defending champs took the Thunder to the last shot in both games in Oklahoma City.

Gregg Popovich was asked the other day if there was a difference between being the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, and he said this: It depends.

A year ago, for example, it didn’t help. Memphis was a No. 8 seed in name only.

But Utah is the real thing. The Jazz have none of the swagger of the Grizzlies, and they also don’t have the same talent. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are solid big men, but neither is what Zach Randolph was a year ago.

The Jazz aren’t as awful as they were Wednesday. Neal had more points in 15 minutes (11) Wednesday than any Utah player had for the game.

They want to believe they are better than this, too. The Jazz said the right things afterward, that the Spurs merely did what the home team is supposed to do.

But there was nothing in their play that indicates they believe, and there are reasons. The Jazz, for example, were less concerned about the seeding. The franchise had been splintered a year ago, and they felt good getting into the playoffs. They were hoping for more, but now it’s reality for them.

“We got to learn our lessons from it and scrap it,” coach Tyrone Corbin said Wednesday, “and then start it over.”

Going by their body language: Starting over begins in training camp next fall.

The Spurs haven’t been in a series like this, curiously, since the 2007 Finals against Cleveland. They won the first two against Phoenix in the first round the next year, but that series started nothing like this one. Then, the Spurs needed double overtime and a Tim Duncan 3-pointer.

The Spurs might lose a game in Salt Lake City. And if they don’t, a sweep won’t guarantee a thing. The Spurs swept Memphis in 2004, after all, and didn’t make the conference finals.

Still, the postseason is a grind. Being able to lessen that means something.

Avoiding a dangerous opponent means more. So while the Thunder play the Mavericks tonight in Dallas, the Spurs are flying in the other direction.

Someone needs to edit the banner to say that.
Twitter: @Buck_SA


Game 1:

Game 2:

Game 3 Saturday: Spurs @Jazz, 9 p.m.
TV: FSNSW, TNT Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

Game 4 Monday: Spurs @Jazz, TBD
TV: FSNSW, TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* Game 5 Wednesday: Jazz @Spurs, TBD
TV: FSNSW, TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* Game 6 May 11: Spurs @Jazz, TBD
TV: FSNSW, TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* Game 7 May 13: Jazz @Spurs, TBD
TV: TBD Radio: WOAI-AM 1200; KCOR-AM 1350?

* — As needed in best-of-7 series

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