Eric Patten (@ericpatten) | 5/15/12

SAN ANTONIO-It's been well documented that the four-time champion Spurs have transitioned over the last two or three seasons from a precision defensive team to an offensive juggernaut.

The numbers back it up. They've averaged 102.9 points per game since 2009-10, a 6.3 point jump from their previous four-year average. Yet what's remarkable about the philosophical shift is that at their core they've remained inherently the same.

At Tuesday's shoot-around, Chris Paul was asked about the perceived differences between the Spurs today and the Spurs of old.

"Nothing has changed," Paul answered. "The only thing that's happened is it's a new year. It's the same team, same steadiness. They're as good as they were five, six years ago. The same thing as then, they're not going to beat themselves. You've got to beat them."

Effectively, it starts with the continuity between Tim Duncan and head coach Gregg Popovich, who on Tuesday will experience their 181st playoff game, surpassing Phil Jackson and Kobe

Bryant for the most all-time as a player-coach tandem. In addition, Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili have played 126 postseason games together, the most among active trios.

Despite upgrading the roster at the trade deadline with the likes of Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson, the Spurs still thrive on their so-called "Big 3."

"We haven't played them since [trading Richard Jefferson], so it does feel a little bit different," Blake Griffin said. "But it's still Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, you know. I guess those guys are pretty good, too. It's the same core guys and the thing about them is that whoever they bring in just seems to fit right in."


One of the decisive factors in the series could be which team shoots better from 3-point range.

The Spurs were the league's top team from distance, making 39.3% on the regular season, compared to the Clippers' 35.7% marksmanship (12th).

According to Randy Foye, part of the solution will be to understand how the Spurs get their shots.

"The biggest thing for us is protecting not only the 3-point area, but all areas [in transition], and knowing that their strength is the 3-point area," Foye said. "It's understanding that they want to shoot threes and understanding that we have to guard."

For Paul, halting the Spurs attack begins on the offensive end. "I think the way we control [transition] is by having good offense," Paul said. "If we can limit our turnovers and not let them get out in transition. They have so many shooters, especially when they come in with Matt Bonner. Tony [Parker] is a blur. This will not be easy by any means. We're going to have to play well."

Still, Foye suggested that the Clippers, who made six or more threes in four of their seven games against the Grizzlies, must not feel pressure to do things out of the context or flow of the game.

"The game's already tough enough," Foye said. "You never go into a game saying, 'I need to this or need to that.' You just need to go out there and play."


After shoot-around both Paul and Griffin updated the media on their injuries heading into Game 1.

Paul, who has a strained right hip flexor, said he's feeling "as well as you can right now," insisting that he'll be ready to go Tuesday night.

"We did our normal shoot-around," Paul added. "We got some shots up and went over their offense and our game plan."

On Monday, Griffin thought his sprained left knee would likely leave him at about 75-80% for Game 1. However, he said Tuesday that he's figuring out how to deal with the discomfort the injury causes.

"I think I know how to deal with it better now," Griffin said. "These past two days [of rest] have been good. This series might be better for it. Not as much loading and holding people off because that's really what gets it. It's not so much jumping on my own it's the side to side and putting torque on it."


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