- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
SAN ANTONIO -- For those of you who like to track these sorts of milestones, here is your update from the land of wildly successful 30-somethings:
Tony Parker has officially moved into the same age bracket as championship compadres Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, Duncan swears that he feels younger at 36 than he did at 31 and their San Antonio Spurs haven't tasted defeat for 37 days and counting.
On the occasion of his 30th birthday, Parker took advantage of a hobbled and smothered CP3 to score a game-high 22 points and spark the Spurs' second-half eruption, leading their now-standard array of five double-digit scorers in a 105-88 Game 2 trouncing of the Los Angeles Clippers that stretched San Antonio's playoff winning streak to six games. And a tidy 16 games overall.
Which only leads us to more housekeeping: San Antonio hasn't lost a game since April 11 and just became only the fourth team in NBA history to win its first four home playoff games by 15 points or better.
Duncan, meanwhile, added 18 points on a mere 14 shots, estimated that it's been "four or five years" since his body was responding like this with June approaching, proclaimed the state of his overall health to be "unbelievable" and basically continued to let the world know why the whispered belief in Spurs circles is that their beloved Timmy is likely to re-sign for years -- yes, plural -- when his contract runs out at season's end.
"Vintage Timmy" is how Parker described Duncan's latest down-low (and face-up) clinic against Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Yet you needn't feel sorry for the Clippers. For starters: Paul and Griffin, to their credit, are still refusing repeated invitations from ever-helpful media types hovering at their lockers to blame their current plight on the injuries they're carrying, even though it's fairly obvious that both are missing some of their usual explosion thanks to their respective hip and knee woes.
There's also no shame in saying that Griffin and Jordan are getting a playoff education from the rejuvenated Duncan. For all the over-the-top criticism Griffin in particular gets from those fixated on what he can't do offensively at a mere 23, his employers and fans should be able to accept what's happening against the closest thing to a juggernaut in today's NBA. After the Clips managed to get out of their grueling first-round series with the Memphis Grizzlies, winning twice on the road in that series in a building that last season's Spurs exited in defeat after all three visits, Griffin surely deserves some slack.
When Paul has almost as many turnovers (a career-playoff-high eight) as points (10), something's clearly wrong. When Griffin makes his free throws (6-for-8) on a 20-point night but snares only a career-low one rebound, he's obviously not right. Griffin, in particular, kept battling in the face of several hard hits and a frustrating late flagrant-foul call for a swipe down on Parker, on which replays showed he got a lot of ball first. But both are finding airspace tough to come by, even on a night when L.A. sank 9 of 13 attempts from 3-point range.
"There's two people on me every time I do something," Paul said.
Of course, when you suggest that he doesn't have the legs to counter the swarms, Paul waves the questions away, saying: "No excuses, man."
Pressed further about his left hip and a corresponding groin issue and whether his body, in its current state, can even allow him to do the things he wants to do, Paul said: "My body is gonna let me. My body is going to be just fine.
"We can't put our heads down," Paul continued. "We're not playing a bunch of scrubs."
That's for sure. The Spurs used their peerless ball movement to build an early 15-point lead, uncharacteristically let it all slip away, then mixed in some clutch contributions from two of their home-run bargain signings -- Danny Green (four 3-pointers) and Boris Diaw (16 points on 7-for-7 shooting) -- in support of the Tony-and-Timmy Show to pull away again. When it was over, San Antonio had shot a ridiculous 13-for-17 from the field in the third quarter, forced 18 turnovers and rung up a monstrous 50-18 edge in points in the paint for a 2-0 series lead.
Games 3 and 4 come back-to-back at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, but it suddenly looks like that'll help the Spurs far more than the younger Clips, based on where the teams are health- and depth-wise.
"We just had like two months off," Parker joked, referring to the weeklong layoff San Antonio enjoyed after completing its first-round sweep of Utah. "We can handle three games in four days."
Parker insists that he can likewise finally stomach what his birth certificate says. He normally bristles when the press tries to lump him into the same generation with Duncan and the 34-year-old Ginobili, but the Frenchman saved all his contempt on this night for the visitors, reacting with more emotion than usual after scoring on a late reverse layup that (A) pumped the lead up to 96-79 and (B) elicited an unusually spirited low-five from Gregg Popovich, his famously hard-to-please coach.
"He's been like this ever since he came back from his national team," Popovich said, describing Parker as "just driven.
"He made some commitments," Popovich added, "and has followed through on those commitments. You can see it."
Said Parker: "I can't be mad at y'all now. I [fought being called 'old'] the whole season. Just have to let it go now."
17hEthan Sherwood Strauss
15hArash Markazi and Ben Alamar
2dAlok Pattani, ESPN Stats & Information