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A winning trifecta

Duncan, Parker, Ginobili putting their stamp on Finals

Posted: Monday June 11, 2007 3:51PM; Updated: Wednesday June 13, 2007 6:09PM
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Tim Duncan (left) and Tony Parker have combined for 104 points in two Finals wins.
Tim Duncan (left) and Tony Parker have combined for 104 points in two Finals wins.
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SAN ANTONIO -- The preparation for the Spurs' 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals began four years ago, when Zydrunas Ilgauskas was getting his legs back after multiple foot surgeries, Larry Hughes was missing the playoffs with Washington and LeBron James was a senior in high school. While those players seemed ages away from ever reaching the Finals, the Spurs were winning what may soon be recast as the first of three championships in a five-year span. Those experiences are making all of the difference now.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich essentially predicted his team's advantage two hours before Game 1.

"There's probably a heightened anxiety, if everybody is honest about their feelings,'' he said. "It's a real thrill to be part of the Finals, and I think that affects one's emotions.''

But, he added, "The same things win and lose ballgames, no matter what round or regular season. If you can do what you do best, you're going to have a pretty good shot at being successful.''

While San Antonio's old hands were managing their nerves, the newcomers from Cleveland were naturally trying to ignore the fretful realities of the Finals.

"Everybody is loose,'' coach Mike Brown said shortly before the opener. "I don't think anybody is tight, but we'll definitely see when that ball goes up.''

San Antonio has run up leads of 18 and 29 points in the Games 1 and 2, respectively, while its Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili has outscored Cleveland's leading scorers of the regular season -- James, Hughes and Ilgauskas -- by 145-52 in the two games. Neither the pressure of the Finals nor the Cavaliers' defense has disturbed the serenity of the Spurs' balanced rotation. It helps that Ginobili (20.5 points in the Finals) has been dominating as a sixth man to maintain pressure on Cleveland's second unit.

"The fact that Manu comes off the bench, he gets a lot of plays when me and Timmy are sitting down,'' Parker said. "We're not doing anything special. I just think we're doing a better job to take turns [offensively], and we're moving the ball great and we're just taking great shots."

How many All-Stars would be willing to relinquish their starting assignment as Ginobili did this year?

"At the time when we did it, we weren't getting a lot of production out of the bench,'' Popovich said. "We thought maybe two things could happen simultaneously: that Michael [Finley] or Brent [Barry] could feel more comfortable with the starters and maybe benefit from the double teams that Timmy receives, and at the same time we'd have more offense and energy coming off the bench with Manu. And in Manu, we have someone who would accept it. He would rather start, but the team is more important to him, so I was able to do it.''

Parker's blend of penetration, passing and shooting -- the last a recent addition to his world -- has created more problems than the Cavaliers can solve. But Parker doesn't see his Finals-leading 28.5 points as a product of his quickness.

"For me it's just be patient, be patient,'' he said. "The key is patience because they're just giving me shots sometimes, but I have to be patient and run the team.'' He sounded much older than 25.

Then there is Duncan, whose 23.5 points, 11 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 require no further explanation.


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