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Spurs doing it their way in playoffs

What do you say about an NBA team that is unbeaten in the postseason and has won 18 in a row overall, a team that leads the playoffs in field-goal percentage, three-pointers made and assists by a wide margin?

Would you call them boring?

That's the plight of the San Antonio Spurs, a team that inspires indifference, not awe. They win. They shoot the lights out. They pass and cut back-door and play smart team defense. The public shrugs and turns its attention to LeBron James. They debate the rise of Kevin Durant, the imminent demise of Kobe Bryant, the creaky charm of the Celtics.

As long as James is chasing his first title, he's the best story, the most polarizing figure in sports. Love him or hate him, you're drawn to the spectacle. Most fans would love to see a Miami-Oklahoma City final -- which would pit Durant, a rising young superstar, against James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat.

The Thunder would have to get by San Antonio first. Oh no, not them again. The Spurs have been death for TV ratings during their 15-year run. There are skeptics who suspect commissioner David Stern arranged Chris Paul's trade to L.A. to help the Clippers surpass San Antonio.

Well, the Spurs are still hanging around the party. They're 8-0 in the playoffs. They swept the Clippers in the second round, overcoming a 24-point deficit in Saturday's third game. They've won those 18 straight games by an average margin of 15.8 points. They're the top seed. How could they not be considered the team to beat right now?

What's so boring about teams that pass, shoot well and score a lot of points? I've long felt that the Spurs got a bum rap from the public. But this definitely isn't your father's Spurs. They're a throwback, an entertaining team that plays the game the right away, and plays it fast.

Yes, Tim Duncan is still at the heart of it, which is part of the problem. Duncan has been a reluctant superstar for 15 years, a brilliant fundamental player who had no interest in the limelight. You don't see Duncan on commercials, or Dancing With The Stars, or on the police blotter. On the court, and in interviews, he's about as expressive as a fencepost.

Duncan turned 36 in April. It has been five years since he led the Spurs to their fourth NBA title. When they were stunned by Memphis in the first round as No. 1 seed last year, it was easy to assume their time had passed.

They came back stronger than ever. Duncan lost weight. Gregg Popovich, the best coach in the game, massaged Duncan's playing time to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Popovich and General Manager R.C. Buford have assembled a deep, versatile roster, adding such young players as Daniel Green and Kawhi Leonard to their veteran trio of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Popovich challenged Parker to be more of a leader after last year's playoff embarrassment. Parker was dominant for his native France in last summer's EuroBasket tourney. Popovich asked Parker why he was so assertive for France and deferential with the Spurs.

Parker got the message. He had always felt it was Duncan's team. But Duncan wanted Parker to be more of a leader, too. Parker, who turned 30 last week, is playing the way he did when he was named MVP of the Finals in 2007. He has been as good as any point guard in the league this season.

Still, it gets back to Duncan. In the waning moments against the Clippers on Sunday, Duncan made consecutive back-door passes to teammates for layups. Then he blocked Paul's shot to seal the win. Not bad for an old man.

Like it or not, the road to the title goes through San Antonio. There's nothing boring about it -- that is, unless they keep breezing through these series without anyone laying a glove on them.

email:jsullivan@buffnews.com