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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

Win or lose, call Spurs a dynasty

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - If the Spurs complete the NBA finals sweep tonight, or even if it takes a few more games, there will be no argument that they are a dynasty. Capturing a fourth title in nine seasons needs some luck, but the Spurs have gone about it very methodically.

The Spurs have faced a Cavaliers team that came into the series playing its best basketball of the year, and have made them look their worst in going up 3-0 in the series.

Game 3's combined point total of 145 was the second-lowest in finals history. Not surprisingly, the Spurs have played in games like that before, and won them all. During their first championship run in 1999, they won games with combined scores of 147 and 148.

But in years past the Spurs had not faced a player with as much talent and mismatch problems as LeBron James. Even the Spurs would need a learning curve, right?

James has committed 17 turnovers in the series after averaging three assists to every turnover in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

"I think coach Pop and their defensive staff have put in a great defensive plan against me," James said. "Any little crease I find they're still having guys coming over me, and if I do finish they make me finish over bodies."

The Spurs did not play this well for the whole season. There were nights when they were

off, and nights when they got outplayed. To end the season and start the playoffs, they lost four straight. But they never panicked. They knew the NBA playoffs are the opposite of a sprint.

"It takes those 82 games to get things moving in the right direction," Tim Duncan said. "At the beginning of the year one of the points coach makes is we want to be better for more of those 48 minutes and do things the right way for more of those 48 minutes than anyone else. It's progressive.

"At the beginning of the year we might have been doing it for a quarter or maybe for a half. Being in these playoffs we might have been doing it for three quarters and giving a quarter away, and I think we're doing it for more of those 48 minutes right now than we've done it all year long."

Tonight, starting at Quicken Loans Arena at 9 p.m., could be the end of the season. If the Cavs want to grab a game in the series, they should hide any doubt, because the Spurs can smell it. The Cavs outplayed the Spurs in the first half of Game 3, but let down in the last five minutes of the second quarter, and let go of the game.

"The margin of error that you have with the San Antonio Spurs, you can't even measure it because any little mistake you make out there, they'll capitalize," Drew Gooden said. "A play you don't go hard on or a particular possession, they capitalize."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich created that mentality that has won so many games. He'd rather ignore the story lines, though, and focus on the next game, and the next game, until the deed is done.

"When I think of dynasties, two come to my mind real quick, UCLA and Bill Russell," Popovich said. "Everything else is just talk after that."

Duncan said Popovich's greatest strength as a coach has been sticking with a plan and letting his players know what he expects. It might be boring, but it works.

"You walk in every year and you understand what he's going to ask from you, what he's going to need from you and what players he's going to put around myself and the rest of the guys to be able to have a good team," Duncan said. "And to have that is outstanding."

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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