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By Shawn Clarke, NBA Contributor - Archive - Email
No signs of rust on these Spurs
The Spurs are closing in on the top spot in the Western Conference.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - John Travolta played the character Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino's crime film Pulp Fiction back in 1994.

When Travolta encountered the convergent thinker known as "The Wolf", portrayed by Harvey Keitel, he was asked if he could keep his spurs from "jingling and jangling" in order to stay cool and not make a scene (no pun intended). Travolta obliged, and a corpse was successfully hauled off to Monster Joe's Used Auto Parts.

How can Travolta and the San Antonio Spurs coincide you ask?

The reference to the metal spurs worn on the heels of riding boots is a dead giveaway, and the sometimes brazen persona of Travolta's character is similar to how one of the more weathered NBA teams has performed this season.

With three players on the current roster born in the late 1970s (Stephen Jackson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili), the Spurs also have several members of the team that entered the world in the early 80s. So it wasn't a surprise that many prognosticators predicted Father Time would take its toll in 2011-12.

Well, the greybeards of the Alamo City have proven the naysayers wrong and are closing in on the top spot in the Western Conference. The Spurs have shown that they can still string together a few wins too in the twilight of their day, winning 11 in a row from Jan. 30-Feb. 20 and currently nine straight, and that no matter how young an opponent is, the theory that losing a fight to your father or older brother still holds some validity.

The Spurs have thumped some of the NBA's younger teams during their winning streak, but faced a Boston Celtics squad that also has been labeled as aging in Wednesday's tough 87-86 triumph in Beantown. The Celtics have some veteran guys in Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, and almost upended a surging San Antonio squad that had nobody with more than 14 points. Duncan is the elder statesmen of the bunch and registered 10 points and 16 rebounds. The rangy Duncan can still bang down low and gets his fair share of rest at times.

He said after the Celtics game it was a great challenge for the Spurs in competing with an experienced squad that is also headed to the postseason.

"It was a great game, great game," Duncan declared. "We knew coming in here they're a playoff caliber team and they're always a tough challenge and it was a good game for us, a good challenge for us."

Duncan appeared to have some spring left in his step when he guarded Pierce down the stretch and forced the sharpshooter to clang an attempt off the rim at the buzzer. Duncan said Pierce "probably got the shot he wanted" and Celtics head coach Doc Rivers admitted that he wanted to get a Duncan-on-Paul matchup simply for the speed factor. The strategy failed since Pierce missed the shot, but it could have gone differently much like how the Spurs' season was predicted when the lockout was lifted.

With a magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to two, San Antonio is closing in on the young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder for Western Conference bragging rights, sitting just one game off the mark with 14 to go in the compressed schedule. The Spurs will play five of their next six games at home, where they have won six in a row and own a 21-4 mark, and will play three straight games at the AT&T Center from April 20-23.

Parker leads the team with 19.1 ppg, while Duncan and Ginobili are second and third with 14.9 and 12.2 points, respectively. Duncan and Parker have played in 752 regular-season games together and that is the highest total for any pair of current teammates. The Spurs are hoping Jackson's experience will come in handy during the playoffs, and the same goes with a few of the fresh-faced players in DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio still has three games left against the Los Angeles Lakers, while Memphis, Phoenix and Portland are also on the docket. So it won't be a breeze down the stretch.

The Spurs' postseason opponent has yet to be determined with at least seven different scenarios waiting to unfold. Either way it will be a much younger challenger ready to get a taste of how playoff basketball is played by an adept franchise that has participated in the tournament every year since 1997-98 -- the same year Duncan was selected No. 1 overall and the longest active streak in the league.

Will familiarity flourish in this young man's game or will youth be served?

Tune in later this month.


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