It was over a decade ago when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili first joined forces to create a championship foundation for the San Antonio Spurs. After making quick, methodical work of the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, they're doing it all over again.
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Execution, continuity and winning are often misconstrued as boring basketball when it comes to the San Antonio Spurs, but they are laughing all the way to their fourth NBA Finals appearance since the 2002-03 season under head coach Gregg Popovich and their three future Hall-of-Famers.
"You don't expect that to happen. It just shows the character of those three guys," said head coach Gregg Popovich after the Game 4 defeat of the Grizzlies. "I appreciate it. Maybe I don't show it the way I should, but it's pretty special."
Special doesn't do their feats justice. The Spurs going back to the Finals led by stars that look like ageless wonders after making a tough-nosed, defensive-minded Memphis team look lost trying to defend them. They shot 51 percent from the field and scored 52 points in the paint to make things look easy against a team that led the league in opponents' points allowed during the regular season (89.3 PPG).
Parker was especially brilliant, and finished with 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the field and was unstoppable. He did it because he had to in order to mitigate the effects of a poor game by Ginobili. It was a testament to Parker's feel for the game and knowing when to take over.
Afterward, he had time to reflect on how far he's come since he won his first title as a young player.
"It's unbelievable-feeling. It's really hard to go to the finals to win a championship," he said. "For me personally, I was 21 when I won my first one. You think it's easy and you're going to go back every year...Every year it get's tougher and tougher."
They're still healthy, and I think a lot of people think the grass is greener on the other side," added Popovich. "I think if you stay the course and you've got leaders who are quality character people, you follow them as long as you can. I've been hanging on Timmy's coattails for a long time."
They earned the respect of their opponents as well, and everyone on the other bench was complementary of the way the Spurs executed flawlessly and managed to dissect the defense and get find easy shots.
"Their ball movement and attention to details was superior," said Grizzlies' guard Quincy Pondexter. "The way they play basketball is the way it should be played."
"They taught us a lesson," said Marc Gasol. "How to execute, how to play, how to read schemes. They taught us a lesson all around. We played against, to me, one of the greatest teams there has been in the last 15 years."
(Quotes courtesy of NBA live streaming)