San Antonio is expected to start Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair and Kawhi Leonard, a rookie from San Diego State. Duncan, of course, has been the franchise's foundation for over a decade. He recently celebrated his 36th birthday but has seemingly gotten stronger as the short season progressed. Duncan averaged 17 points and nine rebounds in April, when he shot 59 percent from the field. Utah starters will be Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll or Josh Howard. Jefferson averages 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds. Millsap can play inside or outside and could create matchup problems for the Spurs.
Advantage • Even
After midseason acquisitions Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Stephen Jackson joined Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner and Ginobili, San Antonio became the NBA's deepest team. They provide outside shooting, experience and versatility behind the Parker/Duncan-led starters. The one missing ingredient? Splitter is the only true center off the bench. Meanwhile, Utah's nonstarters include five players without playoff experience: Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans and Blake Ahearn. But Jamaal Tinsley provides stability behind Harris at point guard and Favors has emerged as a monstrous force around the basket.
Advantage • Spurs
Gregg Popovich has done a masterful job in recent years turning San Antonio from a grind-it-out, defense-oriented team to one that quickens the tempo and scores in bunches. To Popovich's credit, the Spurs have been wildly successful using both styles. He's a top contender for his second Coach of the Year award after guiding the Spurs to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, even though Ginobili missed 32 games because of injuries. For Utah, Tyrone Corbin's first full season has been an unexpected success. Few envisioned the Jazz reaching the playoffs, much less finishing with the same record (36-30) as New York and Dallas. Still …
Advantage • Spurs
Spurs in five