SAN ANTONIO -- Tim Duncan headed to the bench for a well-deserved break. Only nine minutes into Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, he already had the San Antonio Spurs well on their way to another NBA Finals berth.
"Good job," coach Gregg Popovich said blandly, not even making eye contact.
Duncan nodded slightly and took his seat.
The Spurs aren't flashy and don't brag. They just win, especially in odd-numbered years, and the display they put on at the start of their 109-84 victory over the Utah Jazz last night should serve as a warning to Detroit and Cleveland what one of them will be facing when the championship round begins next week.
Duncan and Tony Parker led a 14-0 surge over a 2:13 span late in the first quarter, and San Antonio had a 23-point lead early in the second quarter. Although Utah got an emotional lift at halftime when Derek Fisher arrived from New York, where his infant daughter was getting medical care for a rare eye condition, the only thing in doubt by then was the Spurs' next foe.
"Our first quarter was unbelievable," said Parker, who scored 9 points during the game-breaking flurry and threw a lob that Duncan slammed about as hard as he ever does. "I can't remember, since I've been with the Spurs, shooting the ball like that. Our offense was great, our defense was great. You can't ask for a better start."
The title series begins a week from tonight in San Antonio. The Pistons-Cavaliers series is tied 2-2, with Game 5 tonight in Detroit.
Duncan has been the MVP of all three finals San Antonio has played. The way he's played in the playoffs so far -- against Denver, Phoenix, and Utah -- he could be headed toward a fourth trophy, for him and the Spurs.
"It's great, it's about the journey," Duncan said. "Last year we had a tough finish. This year to come back, put the team together and to go through three really, really good teams to get here, it's tremendous."
The looks on the faces of Utah players throughout the game showed their disappointment. The way things ended left a bitter taste for emerging star Deron Williams, who had 11 points in 24 minutes.
"There were some guys that were already on vacation," said Williams, who played through a sprained right foot two days after playing through a stomach ailment. "Point-blank. On vacation. A long time ago."
After taking a 7-point lead in the first quarter of the first game, Utah didn't lead during any of the other 11 quarters played here and has now lost 19 straight games on the Spurs' home court.
San Antonio led only 16-11 when the game-breaking stretch began with Parker cutting through several big guys and making a tough layup. It ended with Bruce Bowen hitting a 3-pointer from the left corner that put the Spurs up 30-11. They'd made eight straight shots, were 12 of 16 for the game, and were outrebounding the Jazz, 13-4.
Duncan and Parker each finished with 21 points and Manu Ginobili scored only 12. None of them played in the fourth quarter -- it was that much of a blowout.
Andrei Kirilenko led Utah with 13 points and Carlos Boozer had 9 points on 3-of-10 shooting.