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NBA

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NBA playoffs

Spurs-Thunder: Age vs. youth in West finals

– When asked about the oldie-but-goodie San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant inquired about Tony Parker’s age.

“Thirty-two,” a reporter answered.

“He is old,” Durant quipped, drawing laughter. “He doesn’t play like he’s 32 years old.”

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are even older. Duncan just turned 38 and Ginobili is approaching 37. The trio won its first NBA title together in 2003 and fought back Father Time to reach the NBA Finals last year. They will play in their seventh Western Conference finals together, starting with Game 1 tonight in San Antonio.

Durant, the league’s MVP, said there’s more to San Antonio’s success than some mythical fountain of youth. It starts with the genius of Gregg Popovich, the league’s Coach of the Year.

“Their system, they plug guys in and out,” Durant said. “They always stick to their same system. They get guys who fit. And they’ve got a great coach who gets those guys prepared.”

Even with an aging core and numerous injuries throughout the season, the Spurs finished with the league’s best record. They did it with consistency and teamwork that has continued in the playoffs. San Antonio is shooting 49 percent from the field as a team in the postseason, with no player averaging 20 points.

Oklahoma City counters with dynamic individual play from a pair of 25-year-olds. Durant is averaging 31.4 points and 9.5 rebounds in the playoffs. Russell Westbrook is averaging 26.6 points, 8.4 assists and 8.0 rebounds in postseason play.

Westbrook, in particular, has San Antonio’s attention. While Durant’s play has been typical, Westbrook has improved significantly as a floor general during the playoffs.

“He’s an incredible talent having a great playoff run,” Duncan said. “Some incredible numbers. Just an impressive athlete when you try to stay in front of him. His confidence is there.”

The Thunder will be without Serge Ibaka, who led the league in blocked shots. The athletic forward injured his left calf in Game 6 of the conference semifinal against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It’s hard, but we’re going to move on,” Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said. “We’re a very prideful organization and team. We’re going to move on.”

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