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National Columnist

Forget thrilling: Boring consistency may win Spurs a fifth NBA title

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MIAMI -- The Spurs were outshot in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. They were outrebounded. They trailed most of the game, not by a lot, nothing crazy -- the Spurs don't do crazy -- but still, it was consistent and relentless and hard to watch ... three things the Spurs do very well. They were behind consistently, relentlessly and in a way that for Spurs fans had to be hard to watch.

But they won, of course. They won, and only partly because Tony Parker hit that crazy shot. The shot helped, obviously. Don't get me wrong. It clinched the game, but it didn't win the game. The Spurs already led by two points when he hit that shot with 5.2 seconds left, which means they probably were going to win anyway, especially against a front-running Miami Heat team that doesn't handle adversity that well.

Down two? The Heat might have come back if down just two. Maybe. But then Parker hit that shot, and the deficit was four, and the Heat weren't going to come back from that. Their fans knew it, too, which is why American Airlines Arena was emptying out even before Dwyane Wade was doing the most Dwyane Wade thing ever and missing a layup in the final seconds of a game that suddenly was not going well for Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

Game 1 was the most Miami Heat game possible, but enough about them. Because Game 1 was the most Spurs game possible.

Four turnovers? All game? That's why the Spurs won. That's why they were able to stay close, even as they were being outshot and outrebounded, and even as the greatest player in the world was loading the Heat onto his back and carrying them like the rotting grand piano his teammates have become. LeBron James scored 18 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and should have had 18 assists if his teammates could have made shots. But his teammates couldn't make squat, and after doing all that heavy lifting LeBron dropped the piano a time or two in the fourth quarter -- you try carrying that much dead weight for that long -- and the Spurs won.

They won because they're relentless and consistent and boring. Those are all fantastic qualities for a team in the NBA Finals, because they are the qualities of a team that isn't going to beat itself. And the Spurs don't, and won't, beat themselves. Never have, probably never will. Not with this core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich.

To beat the Spurs, the Heat will have to beat the Spurs. And in the NBA Finals, with the world watching and pressure mounting and legacies waiting, that's not easy to do.

The NBA Finals are like golf's US Open, a brutal test that is as much mental as physical, and the Spurs are Ernie Els. They're Retief Goosen. They're boring, but they're not going to beat themselves, and in a test as grueling as the NBA Finals, that's golden. Since 1999 the Spurs have been to the NBA Finals four other times against four different opponents and won all four. They beat the Knicks of Patrick Ewing, Latrell Sprewell and Larry Johnson in 1999. They beat the Nets of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson in 2003. They beat the defending champion Pistons of Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace in 2005, and they beat the Cavaliers of LeBron James in 2007.

They win because that's what they do. It's who they are. Latrell Sprewell and Kenyon Martin and Rasheed Wallace and even LeBron circa 2007 swing hard and wild. They grip it and rip it and entertain fans by visiting spots all over the course. The Spurs don't do any of that. They keep it in the fairway, hit the greens, don't turn the ball over. They win the NBA Finals.

But again, even with that long history of grinding out methodical victories, Game 1 on Thursday night was the most Spurs win ever.

Four turnovers? What a Spurs thing to do. While the Heat were leaving puddles all over the floor in the fourth quarter -- committing five turnovers, more than in the first three quarters combined -- the Spurs were holding the mop. No turnovers in the fourth quarter. None, in 12 minutes. That rarely happens in the second or third quarter of a game in February, and the Spurs did it in the fourth quarter in the NBA Finals on their opponents' home court.

You could try to talk to the Spurs about what happened Thursday night, but you won't get very far. They don't say much, which is their right. Some guys, some franchises, live for the camera. They may pretend they don't like the media attention, but they show up for press conferences in capri pants and Urkel glasses. They want that attention off the floor, because for whatever reason all the attention on the floor isn't enough. That's the Heat.

This is the Spurs: They come to press conferences with nothing interesting to wear, nothing interesting to say and no apologies to make about either. Tim Duncan was asked Friday about the promise Tony Parker had once made to him, about getting him back to the NBA Finals, and Duncan just nodded: Your point? So the point, Duncan was told, was that Parker had said it and now he has done it, and so has Duncan ever reminded Parker about the promise, or thanked him for delivering?

"No."

Oh.

Which is funny in its own way. Duncan, his teammates, Popovich -- they just don't care. Popovich doesn't speak new-age gobbledygook like Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who tries so hard to sound smart that you want to pat him on the back and tell him to stop. Popovich fumes his way through interviews because he doesn't care if you're offended. Duncan snoozes his way through interviews because he doesn't care whether you're charmed. Don't be fooled by their interesting accents, either -- Parker and Ginobili are also boring.

They just play, this whole team. The right pass. Right shot. Right defensive rotation. Maybe it doesn't make for great TV. Maybe it should. Maybe the Spurs are the most admirable team in the NBA today -- a team so comfortable with itself, it believes winning a game is the most interesting thing possible.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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