Deacons in the NBA: Duncan and Spurs Advance to Conference Finals
May 25, 2012
By Scott Wortman, Wake Forest Media Relations (@SIDeacons)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wake Forest legend Tim Duncan moved one step closer to further cementing his status as an NBA legend, as the big man and the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Finals with a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Clippers this past week.
All that stands between the Spurs and a fifth trip to the NBA Finals during the Duncan era is the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder, who advanced past the L.A. Lakers in five games during their semifinal series.
The Spurs and Thunder will begin their best-of-seven series on Sunday in San Antonio. Tipoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT. The top seed in the West, San Antonio will have homecourt advantage during the series.
Duncan and the Spurs took down another Wake Forest legend, Chris Paul, in the semifinals. After sweeping its first-round series with the Utah Jazz, the well-rested Spurs took advantage of a Clippers squad that was battling injuries and was coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Paul, who sparked the Clippers' return to prominence this season, battled a hip injury he suffered during the Memphis series, while fellow All-Star Blake Griffin was playing through a knee injury that he suffered against Memphis as well.
San Antonio took control of the series early, winning big at home in Games 1 and 2. The Spurs won Game 1, 108-92, and Game 2, 105-88. Duncan had a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1, while Paul dished out 10 assists and had five steals but only scored six points in the opening-game loss.
In Game 2, Duncan finished with 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go along with five boards. Paul had 10 points and five assists in the game.
As the series moved to the Staples Center for Game 3, the Clippers looked as though they were going to win big at home as L.A. built a 24-point lead early in the second quarter. However, the Spurs fought back and trimmed the deficit to 10 at the half. San Antonio then unleashed a 24-0 run during the third quarter to assume control of the game and, ultimately, the series. The Spurs won Game 3, 96-86, behind 19 points and 13 rebounds from Duncan. Paul finished with a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists in the loss.
Game 4 in L.A. proved to be the closest game of the series as the Clippers had a chance to win it late. Paul cut the Spurs' lead to 100-99 with a pair of free throws with 52 seconds remaining. After Danny Green hit one of two free throws to give San Antonio a two-point advantage, Paul slipped while driving the lane and came up short on what would have been the game-tying bucket.
Paul finished with a game-high 23 points to go along with 11 assists and six rebounds, while Duncan had 21 points and nine boards.
Duncan and the Spurs move on to face the No. 2-seeded Thunder, who were battling the Spurs all season for the top spot in the West. Oklahoma City features All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who led the franchise to the Western Conference Finals a year ago before falling to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in five games.
Duncan is making his seventh career Western Conference Finals appearance, having gone 4-2 in his previous six appearances. San Antonio's last appearance in the conference finals came in 2008 when it lost in five games to the Lakers.
The Spurs won the Western Conference in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007 and went on to win the NBA title in each of those four seasons.