Updated: February 20, 2013, 2:35 AM ET

1. The San Antonio Spurs, Leaders In Anonymity

By Kevin Arnovitz | ESPN.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The scoring started when Tony Parker dumped a bounce pass between two defenders to Tiago Splitter along the baseline for an easy flush. Then came Tim Duncan's face-up jumper, followed by Duncan, as if he were clairvoyant, hitting a cutting Danny Green with a pass beneath the basket.

Pretty soon, the Spurs got busy in transition. Parker deked DeMarcus Cousins with an up-and-under move on the break, then Green pushed the ball ahead to a streaking Kawhi Leonard for a layup. Five field goals in under five minutes -- one each from the Spurs' five starters -- every one of the buckets assisted, four out of five of them converted at the rim.

And so it goes with the San Antonio Spurs -- lords of the baseline, merchants of calm, creatures of constant motion in the half court. They moved to a league-best 43-12 with a 108-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings, a game in which the Spurs never trailed.

Tony Parker
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesTony Parker's ready for the stretch run.

The Kings managed to hang around into the fourth quarter by working their way to the line, keeping their turnovers in check and doing a nice job on the glass, but a team of young defensive ciphers couldn't get the stops it needed against a savvy veteran outfit like San Antonio.

Parker, this season's curious dark horse in the MVP conversation, scored 30 points and handed out 11 assists.

"[Parker] picked up where he left off before the All-Star break," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's having an unbelievable year and he just keeps doing it. He's very committed, very focused and he did for us tonight what he's done all year."

With the Spurs ahead only three points inside of 30 seconds, Parker iced the game when he knifed through four Kings defenders, then kissed a scoop shot off the glass.

"When Pop's calling my number, I just try to be aggressive and create for myself or for my teammates," Parker said.

For San Antonio, more notable than the win was the sight of Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili sharing the floor down the stretch. The Spurs' three principals hadn't played significant minutes in a second half together since Jan. 11 in a loss at Memphis.

"It's been a long time," Parker said. "It was kind of weird. I was like, 'Who are those guys?' It was good to see. Hopefully, we can do it more and more because those last 27 games are going to go super-fast, so we need to be ready."

Counterintuitive as it seems, the Spurs ripped off 15 wins in 16 games coming out of that loss at Memphis. Such is the luxury of being able to fall back on a system in which a player can flourish whether his name is Tony Parker, Gary Neal or Matt Bonner. It's silly to suggest that the team is a collection of interchangeable parts, but the Spurs' adaptability and confidence in their program is impressive -- and it's also old news.

That's what makes it so hard to glean anything new about San Antonio, even as the Spurs steamroll through the league. Their system has been in place for what seems like decades and those who play for Gregg Popovich pledge their devotion to its principles. Most NBA teams, whether they're elite contenders like the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder or high-grade upstarts like the Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks, are in a constant state of information gathering. But for the Spurs, live basketball seems like less of a learning process and more of an exercise in execution.

Parker generally agreed with this premise, and added that full health was the crucial factor in the team's fortunes going forward: "For us, it's all about being healthy," Parker said. "The system is the system. As long as we're healthy, I like our chances at the end of the year."

Coaches approach these expansive questions a little differently. Popovich described a learning process that never stops, no matter how entrenched the system or the personnel might be in San Antonio. He then enumerated all the young players that populate the Spurs' roster -- Leonard, Green, Neal and Splitter.

"They're all in the position where they can improve," Popovich said. "By playoff time we can be a better team if we pay attention to the details and pay attention to execution."

Then there's the task of scouting the competition, picking up nuances that could inform a big matchup in May or June.

"We're also learning about other teams," Popovich said. "The Clippers are one hell of a team, and they're kind of new because of the bench they brought in. Oklahoma City's doing things a little differently. They're getting used to a new player. Information gathering never really stops for a team, no matter how experienced you might be."

Reliable, known quantities like Parker, Duncan and Ginobili are rare luxuries, and that collective experience makes the learning process much easier for the Spurs than most. That's a reality that should scare the rest of the league, even as the Spurs toil in anonymity -- 31 games over .500 -- just the way they like it.


Dimes past: Jan. 29 | 30 | 31 | Feb. 1-2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8-9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 17

2. Around the Association