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Surprised Spurs want sweep

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Point guard Tony Parker has been the point man behind San Antonio's three victories in the Spurs' playoff series against the Trail Blazers.It was another game, another blowout for the San Antonio Spurs against the Trail Blazers. Saturday night’s 118-103 victory gave the San Antonio a 3-0 lead over Portland in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs.

When Game 3 was over, Spurs sixth man Manu Ginobili was shocked at the position San Antonio had found itself in.

“Who would’ve thought?” Ginobili asked. “3-0 up and winning with a certain margin … nobody really expected that. We’re shooting high percentages, moving the ball well. We are a little bit surprised.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is evidently not of the belief that an unexamined life is not worth living. When asked how close the Spurs are to peaking, Popovich shook his head and responded, “I have no idea.”

San Antonio power forward Tim Duncan has been on some stellar teams. But Duncan declined to talk about the way this team is

playing compared to other seasons.

“I don’t compare teams,” Duncan said.

Ginobili, however, had no problem verbalizing just how well the Spurs are playing.

“We’re playing our best basketball of the season,” he said.

Once again, San Antonio hit Portland in the mouth in the first half with ferocious defense and dead-eye shooting that had the Spurs up 60-40 at halftime.

The Spurs had an answer for everything the Blazers tried to do. Every time Portland did something to get the crowd fired up (like when Damian Lillard hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to give the Blazers a 13-12 lead midway through the first quarter), the Spurs had an answer (like when Duncan followed Lillard’s jumper with a jumper of his own to give the Spurs back the lead).

The Spurs were so good defensively that they often made the Blazers look like a bumbling mess on offense. Portland was unable to hold on to rebounds, several times the Blazers kicked the ball off their feet and out of bounds, and Portland also had instances of allowing the shot clock to tick down so low they had to

take ridiculous shots that had little chance of going in.

“It was a fantastic first half,” Ginobili said. “Defensively, we were very sharp and attentive. We got a lot of deflections, loose balls that fueled our offense.

Everybody contributed. We were active, we moved the ball. It was fun to watch and to play.”

The Blazers began the third quarter on a 17-4 run and cut the lead to seven points. Portland reenergized the crowd and got some momentum.

“It’s kind of a pattern for them in the third quarter,” guard Danny Green said. “They made a big run.”

Said Ginobili: “It was a tough moment. They started making shots, pressuring and we kind of stopped offensively. We know they’re going to make runs. They have that kind of team. They have a lot of shooters. It’s going to happen.”

The Spurs eventually regained their composure, silenced the crowd and built the lead back up to 83-69 at the end of the third period.

“We stuck with it and kept pushing it and kept fighting,” Ginobili said. “We got the lead back up to 16 and the whole atmosphere (in the Moda Center) changed. It’s very important to keep our heads calm.”

Now San Antonio will turn its attention to Game 4 on Monday, when the Spurs will try to sweep

the series — a far cry from the seven games it took them to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.

“We’re just trying to close this thing out,” Duncan said. “We’re here to win four games however it may be, whether it’s in the fifth or sixth game or however it may be. We’d love to close things out (in Game 4). We’ve had pretty decent control of (the series) throughout, and we want to make sure we finish it the right way and get some rest. There won’t be any letdowns for us. We’re not going to cash anything in and be satisfied with what we have. We’ll be ready to go.”

Ginobili said the Spurs will not take anything for granted in Game 4. Especially because he is still not quite able to believe San Antonio is up 3-0.

“We’re cautious, because it might not be real,” Ginobili said. “It’s happening, and we’re enjoying it, but we know it can turn quick. We have to work hard every

minute.”