Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 2/22/13
The San Antonio Spurs destroyed the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night. You might say it was just like old times. The thing is, when talking about the Spurs and saying it feels like "old times," you have to clarify whether you're referring to the past or the age of the Spurs roster. Manu Ginobili said it felt like old times Wednesday, when he, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker all closed out a close game together in Sacramento. "It's been a while, more than a month, so yes, it did feel like old times," Ginobili told the San Antonio Express-News. "It felt good to be playing at the end of the game with Tim and Tony. It felt even better that we won." Old times, young players or new times, old players it doesn't seem to matter. Just when you're ready to give up on the Spurs, like before this season, or before last season, or the year before that here they come again. It starts with the continued greatness of the core players, of course. But coach Gregg Popovich's management of those players is what keeps the Spurs coming back year after year. It's not just that Popovich coaches the games well, he manages the season with an almost vicious sense of devotion to the Spurs and the Spurs only. If he wants to give Duncan a rest, he's giving Duncan a rest even if they are playing in Miami that night and whether the commissioner likes it or not. The result is that the Spurs survive the first two months of the season and then about this time of year start to make their big push. It's happening again. The Spurs are playing their best basketball of the year just in time to heat up for the playoffs. It's not a coincidence. And yet the old Big Three, once proportioned like a three-wheeler, now looks more like one of those old-timey bikes clowns ride in the circus. Parker's wheel is a lot bigger than the other two, and with every passing year, month, game we inch closer to a time when Duncan and Ginobili finally cause the thing to tip over. There's a real anxiety to it. Every time Duncan misses a game or hits a cold streak, you can't help but wonder if that was it the last spoke holding his wheel together. Feb. 2 was one of those nights. Duncan bruised his knee and missed the next four games. Since he has returned, he is 9-for-23 with 22 points. "I'm very out of rhythm with a lot of things, not just my shot," Duncan told the Express-News. Duncan figured1 the rhythm would come back, but that's what they all think right before it doesn't. This is not to say Duncan is finished or the Spurs are doomed. Outside of Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs aren't even particularly old. They're fine. And so, probably, is Duncan. He's averaging 17-10-3. It's just that we're at the point where you can see what it's going to look like when the Spurs finally break down, even if they are 43-12. Three thoughts 1. The Spurs and the Clippers are not as different as you think. Most of the NBA's best teams have two great scorers leading their team Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, etc. but both the Spurs and Clippers are more balanced. San Antonio's leading scorer, Tony Parker, averages 21.0 points per game, followed by Tim Duncan at 17.0. Four other players average at least 10 points per game. This is like the Clippers, who have three players averaging between 16.6 and 18.5 points per game (Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford) and three others averaging at least 10. The Spurs and Clippers are doing the same things, they just look different doing them. This might not be just a coincidence, either. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro played for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in the 1990s. 2. As noted above, the Spurs are not as old as they seem. Tim Duncan (36) and Manu Ginobili (35) make the Spurs feel old, but the average Spur is 27.8 years old and has 5.4 years of NBA experience. 3. So Gregg Popovich cussed out Dwight Howard during the All-Star game, according to Stephen A. Smith. This tells you everything you need to know about why the Spurs are 43-12 and the Lakers are 26-29. Quotes of the week "Of course I would like to stay. I'd like a better opportunity, also, so it goes both ways." DeJuan Blair to the San Antonio Express-News on the possibility of being traded. Because of his expiring contract, Blair was a name tossed around in a lot of trade rumors, but when the deadline came and went at 2 p.m. Thursday, Blair was still on the Spurs. "I don't know, I'm a little bit drained. I gotta see what Obama's up to and all those guys, but maybe we'll get another campaign going." Luke Bonner, brother of Spurs forward Matt Bonner, on campaigning for his brother to compete in next year's 3-point competition. Luke Bonner, a former basketball player himself, writes for FlipCollective.com, and wrote a post campaigning for his brother to be included in this year's competition. Bonner was allowed in, and finished second to Kyrie Irving. What's next? The Spurs quickly play at Phoenix before returning for a six-game home stand. They beat the Clippers Thursday and also play Oklahoma City Thunder between now and March 11. Streaking or peaking? The Spurs have won 16 of their last 17 games and have won eight of those games by at least 10 points. This run goes back to Jan. 11, when they lost in overtime at Memphis. It is easily San Antonio's best stretch of the season, and a marked acceleration since a couple of months ago. From Nov. 7 to Dec. 18 the Spurs were 15-8. The Spurs went on a similar tear about this time last season, and it set up a big run. Last year they won 11 straight between Jan. 30 and Feb. 20., and went on to go 23-3 in March and April to close out the season.
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