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Old 04-17-13, 09:09 AM
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Mike Monroe: Spurs no longer fearsome first-round foe they were

Mike Monroe: Spurs no longer fearsome first-round foe they were

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 1:19 am by Mike Monroe

After an entire season at, or near, the top of the Western Conference, the Spurs have become a preferred first-round playoff opponent.

The Spurs' Kawhi Leonard (02), Tiago Splitter (22), Manu Ginobili (20), Tim Duncan (21), Matt Bonner (15) and Tony Parker (09) watch the game from the bench in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns at the AT&T Center on Feb. 27. (Kin Man Hui / San Antonio Express-News)

Won’t the Lakers and Rockets play their Wednesday night game at Staples Center as if it were a Game 7 when victory will match them against the Spurs instead of the Thunder?
Even if the Grizzlies take the pressure off the Lakers by beating Utah in a game that will start 2½ hours before tipoff in L.A., both teams at Staples Center will do their best to win because the Spurs have lost key players and the on-court chemistry needed for postseason success.
Two months ago, San Antonio was the team to be avoided. Renewed dedication to defense made the Spurs more dangerous than the group that closed the 2011-12 season on a 10-game win streak. Tim Duncan was playing like a mid-20s version of himself, and Tony Parker had played better than any point guard in the league in the honest opinion of Gregg Popovich.
Everything changed March 1, when Parker suffered a Grade 2 left ankle sprain. The Spurs went 7-2 without him, and he was back on the court three weeks later, but something was different.
The Spurs are 6-7 since, and Parker has played in only nine of the last 13 games. They must beat the Timberwolves in the season finale to avoid their first losing streak of more than two games since March 2011.
Think the Rockets and Lakers haven’t noticed?

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Im honored to be on this team right now because hes going to be great for years to come, and Im going to hold on as long as I can. -Tim Duncan on Kawhi Leonard.
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