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Fran Blinebury

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have helped the Spurs win 18 straight games.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Step by step, San Antonio making a bid at an historic run

Posted May 21 2012 9:08AM

LOS ANGELES -- History is about perspective. The Clippers are history. The Spurs are making it.

It's no longer good enough to measure San Antonio against the other teams left in the field, but to start rifling through the archives, examining cave walls for drawings of ancient races that might have once played the game so well.

More and more, it's looking like Utah's Al Jefferson was right when he proclaimed: "I don't see nobody beating them."

The Spurs are running through the playoffs like Caesar through Gaul, like Alexander through Persia, like water through a garden hose.

Eight up and eight down: jamming the Jazz and now turning Lob City into Sob City. Ho-hum, the Western Conference finals are up next.

For the numbers crowd, Sunday night's 102-99 victory made the Spurs only the 12th team in NBA history to sweep the first two rounds of the playoffs. Six of the prior 11 went on to win the championship. Nobody has done it since the 2001 Lakers.

More impressively, their 18th consecutive triumph moves the Spurs onto the top 10 list for longest winning streaks in NBA history. Six of those teams eventually claimed titles, including two of the league's bet teams, the 1972 Lakers and 1996 Bulls.

But to break it all down into numbers is to miss the beauty, like trying to describe Scarlett Johansson by the angle of her jaw line or her shoe size. Sometimes you just have to sit back, take in the entire picture and simply enjoy.

Yes, they are only halfway home to their ultimate goal. Yet it's starting to look as if the field is spotting Usain Bolt a couple of strides at the 50-meter mark.

"I did not know that," Manu Ginobili said when the winning streak had reached 15.

"That's news to me," Tony Parker said when it hit 16.

"It doesn't exist for us," coach Gregg Popovich said of No. 18. "We don't talk about it. I've never heard anyone mention it except (the media). It is not even a thought in our minds. Each game is a separate entity."

Perhaps that is the special ingredient, like waving the vermouth bottle over the glass to make an extra-dry martini. They are as single-minded in their determination not to admire the scenery as they are diverse in their talents.

"This year reminds me of when I was here the last time (2003)," said late arrival Stephen Jackson, who came in under the trade deadline. "It is a great team and great guys to be around. Nobody is worried about their personal game and everybody wants to just win. So it is still the same around here."

What is amazing is that it is still the same even though it is radically different. The team that used to put on the defensive squeeze of a cobra now plays offense like a family of rabbits that got into a meth lab. They run, they shoot, they attack relentlessly. The Spurs are both the best 3-point shooting team in the league and the club that will sneak in for all sorts of backdoor cuts for layups.

After mostly bludgeoning the Jazz and Clippers through the first seven games of the playoffs, the Spurs were a bit sloppy in the clincher, committing 16 turnovers that led to 24 L.A. points. They let the Clippers take an 88-82 lead when Eric Bledsoe went on a one-man campaign against going fishing.

But on a night when the ailing, aching, electrifying Chris Paul finally had a game where he looked more like himself and the Staples Center crowd bought into the brief, shining moment of hope, the Spurs turned loose 36-year-old, 6-foot-11 Tim Duncan as the world's oldest, tallest point guard to put down the rebellion. In the space of 3 minutes, Duncan whipped a pass into the corner that Gary Neal drilled for a 3, threaded the needle to Ginobili for a backdoor reverse and then found a cutting Tony Parker for another layup and the bucket that put the Spurs ahead for good.

For their next trick, maybe the Spurs will saw a woman in half or catch a bullet in their teeth. With each passing game, as the winning streak grows, so it seems does their ability and confidence, if not their ego.

The Thunder, Lakers, Heat or Pacers -- is there anyone other than Charles Barkley willing or capable of throwing stones at San Antonio?

"You never know what's going to happen with your team," Popovich said. "But I can tell you that with any championship, we've never gone into a playoffs thinking, 'You know, this is our year. We've got the team that can get it done.' We've never felt like that. We just go with what we call appropriate fear. You're not afraid of people, but you still have good concern, appropriate fear about everything and all the things that can happen. So there was never a thought you're the team that's going to win a championship."

There is now in a lot of places, if not in the Spurs' locker room. It's all a matter of perspective.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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