Spurs take first game of opening series

The San Antonio Spurs came out of Game One of the 2014 NBA Playoffs with a 90-85 victory behind veteran point guard Tony Parker’s 20 points and nine assists and Tim Duncan’s 10 rebounds.

The Mavericks came out of the gate sluggish but by the beginning of the fourth quarter had built a nice 10-point lead.  Then the Spurs woke up and went on a 19-4 run and held Dallas scoreless for more than seven minutes.   The normally steady Zach Randolph was hounded by the Spurs defense and was a dismal 1-8 in 28 minutes holding him well below his regular season average 19.7 PPG shooting better than 51%.

“It was just one of them nights,” Randolph said after the game. “I’ve been double-teamed the whole season. A lot of my shots were off. I didn’t get as good a look as I wanted to. It was just the rhythm of the game. I’ve got to be better, as I told my teammates. I’ve got to be better for them.”

For PG Tony Parker, this was the beginning of fulfillment of a promise he made to Tim Duncan after losing in game 7 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat.

“I promised to him that we will go back, go back to The Finals and get an opportunity to win the whole thing,” Parker said in May. “I’m trying to do my best, trying to be aggressive every night, and I think everybody on the team, we really wanted to do it for him.”

Let the games continue!  Game two is scheduled for Wednesday April 23rd at the AT&T Center.  Great seats and tickets remain.  Get yours now before they’re all gone!


Spurs finally find out just what they’re up against

By Jeff McDonald

The Spurs arrived at their practice facility Sunday afternoon — for their third workout in six days with no game — to find they had drawn the opponent they had most desired in the Western Conference semifinals.

Somebody. Anybody.

“You can’t prepare for nobody,” guard Manu Ginobili said.

As far as the Spurs were concerned, the Los Angeles Clippers became their next somebody with a gritty Game 7 victory in Memphis, which finally cemented a second-round opponent beginning Tuesday at the ATT Center.

When the top-seeded Spurs hit the floor for the first time since finishing off Utah last Monday, Chris Paul and the Clippers — and not Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies — will be the team awaiting them.

For the Spurs, who had been going stir crazy scrimmaging each other in their own practice gym, the “who” is less important than the “finally.”

“It drives you a little crazy preparing for two teams at once,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “One day, you think somebody’s going to win, then it changes. It went back and forth. At least now we know who we’re playing.”

In a well-coined phrase, made for T-Shirts: It’s Lob City.

In Paul and Blake Griffin, the KIA-hopping dunk-machine, the fifth-seeded Clippers come with more star power — and, perhaps, more firepower — than did the Jazz.

Widely considered the NBA’s premier point guard, the 27-year-old Paul averaged 20.4 points and 7.1 assists in the Memphis series. By force of will, he lifted the Clippers past a team that at times seemed vastly superior.

The Spurs are familiar with this playoff version of Paul. Then with New Orleans, he pushed the Spurs to seven games in the 2008 conference finals.

“He’s one of those players, you know he’s not going to give up,” Ginobili said.

Popovich described Paul in terms even more glowing: “He’s a future Hall of Famer.”

The presence of an almost-certain lock for Springfield is one thing that separates the Spurs’ next opponent from its last.

Another difference between the Clippers and Jazz: The Clippers have a few players who can shoot from outside 8 feet.

Case in point is Mo Williams, the reserve guard who torched the Spurs for 33 points — and made 7 of 9 3-pointers — in a 120-108 Clippers victory at the ATT Center in March.

“They’re very different,” said Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who averaged a team-best 21 points in the first round. “They’re more transition, fast breaks, lobs.

“Utah, everything was in the paint. They didn’t have a lot of shooters. The Clippers have some good shooters, so it’s a lot different.”

The Spurs’ strategy in the Utah series was to leave the Jazz shooters alone to clank all but 20 percent of their 3-point tries and use extra defenders to double-team the post.

The Clippers’ abundance of 3-point threats — which includes guard Randy Foye and recently acquired wing Nick Young — might make it more difficult for the Spurs to get away with that approach.

“You can’t help as much as we did against the Jazz,” Ginobili said.

The Spurs, meanwhile, will have to hope an eight-day layoff between series doesn’t rust over the well-oiled machine that has produced 14 consecutive victories.

They will approach the Clippers with a steady diet of Parker pick-and-rolls, lockstep team defense and slick offensive execution that got them this far this fast.

Or, as former Spurs great David Robinson framed the matchup on his Twitter feed Sunday afternoon: “Lob City vs. Fundamental City.”

After an extended, nerve-rattling break, the citizens of Fundamental City are just happy to have another game to play and another opponent to scout.

“The uncertainty is not always good,” Ginobili said. “At this point of the season, you want to know what you’re going to face.”

At long last, at least, the Spurs know.

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

(Best-of-seven series)

Game 1: Tuesday, @Spurs, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 2: Thursday, @Spurs, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 3: Saturday, @Clippers, 2:30 p.m., ABC

Game 4: Sunday, @Clippers, 9:30 p.m., TNT

* Game 5: May 22, @Spurs, TBA, TNT

* Game 6: May 25, @Clippers, TBA, ESPN

* Game 7: May 27, @Spurs, TBA, TNT

* If necessary

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