Thursday , Mar , 22 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Spurs will be ready for the playoffs

(Sports Network) – The Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns are the talk of
the Western Conference. After all, they do own the top records in the league
and the leading candidates for MVP are on their teams, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki
and Phoenix’ Steve Nash.


Spurs will be ready for the playoffs

However, the San Antonio Spurs are still a big factor in the West and will be
ready to make some noise when the playoffs arrive. All-Stars Tim Duncan and
Tony Parker are once again having excellent seasons, and will have something
to prove when they play the elite squads in the postseason.

Dallas appears to be headed towards winning the Southwest Division title as
well as the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Spurs, who have
already clinched a spot in the postseason, could end up anywhere from No. 2 to
the fifth seed in the standings. The smart money is on a third seed and a
second-round matchup with the high-powered Suns, assuming both clubs pick up
victories in the opening round.

In the 2006 playoffs, the Spurs, who entered the postseason as the defending
world champions and the top seed in the West, eliminated the Sacramento
Kings, 4-2, in round one, but fell in seven games to the Mavericks in the
semis.

San Antonio is a team that is built to win now. It has playoff-tested veterans
who know what it takes to win the big game. The Spurs are playing very well
down the stretch and showed against the Indiana Pacers that they have the
total package that is needed for the rigors of the postseason.

Duncan scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the
Spurs to a 90-72 victory over Indiana at the AT&T Center. Parker contributed
10 points and four assists, while Francisco Elson ended with 14 points on 6-
of-8 from the floor in the win.

“I thought Tim (Duncan) and Francisco (Elson) were both very good,” said San
Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich after the win over the Pacers. “Tim
was focused and aggressive with the ball on offense. He wasn’t looking for
other people. He was demonstrative. Francisco was active. Tony (Parker) did a
really good job defending Jamaal (Tinsley) while he was out there.”

Duncan finished 11-for-16 from the field for the Spurs, who held Indiana to
just 35.4 percent shooting from the floor.

“We played good defense tonight,” said Popovich. “We progressively got better
and moved the ball better as the game went on and got the win.”

Matt Bonner, who was acquired in a trade from Toronto during the offseason,
had a strong game against the Pacers. He came off the bench and scored 10
points and grabbed nine rebounds in 22-plus minutes of action for San Antonio.

“He (Bonner) plays a great blue-collar (style) and has a great work ethic,”
said Popovich. “We’re thrilled to have him in the program. He’s just
getting better and better.”

The Spurs have a tough schedule down the stretch. They are scheduled to host
the Northwest Division-leading Utah Jazz on March 30th and the Suns on April
5th. San Antonio will visit the Mavericks on April 15th at American Airlines
Center.

Duncan and Parker will need a lot of help from their supporting cast during
the grueling best-of-seven series that come with the playoffs. Thirty-six-
year-old forward Robert Horry, who has six championship rings, usually saves
his best for the postseason, while Manu Ginobili will give the team needed
energy at critical times and Brent Barry and Michael Finley will provide
steady play.

Popovich, who has led the Spurs to three NBA championships during his tenure
in San Antonio and was named the 2003 NBA Coach of the Year, is a great
leader and he has the players to win in the postseason.

For the first time in a few years, San Antonio is not the favorite to win the
West. Fans and the so-called experts are waiting for Dallas and Phoenix to
hook up in the Western Conference finals.

Being under the radar makes the Spurs a more dangerous team. Duncan and
company know what it takes to win in the playoffs. They are not the hunted
anymore, and that is not a good thing for the rest of the conference.

Don’t forget about the Spurs!

SAN