The Spurs had just scored a convincing win over the Clippers on Tuesday, extending their perfect record at The AT&T Center to 33-0 this season. In the post-game euphoria, a reporter for a local radio station asked Manu Ginobili if the Spurs felt they were playing better in advance of their Saturday game against the Golden State Warriors than they were on Jan. 25, when Golden State scored a 120-90 victory in Oakland.

“I don’t remember what we were doing before that Warriors game,” Ginobili answered, forgetting (as had his interrogator) that the Spurs went into that one with a season-best 13-game win streak. “What I know is that they killed us. They are a heck of a team and they create a lot of mismatches and they shoot like crazy, so it’s always tough.

“We’ll do our best, but Blazers first. We can’t forget.”

Ginobili’s words were an apt reminder that one big reason the Spurs went into their Thursday night game at AT&T Center against the Trail Blazers with a franchise best 57-10 record has been their ability to avoid getting ahead of themselves. Indeed, before even thinking about the Warriors there was the matter of focusing on a team that is No. 6 in the West and trying to right its ship after losing five of previous seven games.

Coming off big wins over the Thunder and Clippers, the real question for the Spurs was easy to identify: Would they have the proper focus against the Trail Blazers, one of the six teams that has managed to beat Golden State this season?

The answer came in a third quarter dominated by the 3-point shooting of Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills and the ball distribution of Tony Parker. Parker had eight of his season-high 16 assists in the period, orchestrating the second-most productive quarter of the season. The Spurs’ 39 points in the period turned a tight game into another relatively easy home court win, 118-110.

Leonard went 3-for-3 from long range in the quarter and Mills was 2-for-2 from distance. By the time it ended the Spurs had a 17-point lead. The Blazers made a late comeback, but never really threatened to become the first team to beat the Spurs at AT&T Center this season.

Now 58-10 and 34-0 at home, the Spurs made 16-of-24 shots (66.7 %) in their third-period points deluge, including all five of their 3-point attempts.

Parker assisted on two 3-pointers and a mid-range jumper by Leonard (22 points), four baskets by LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points), and a layin by Tim Duncan and had 16 assists, one shy of his career high, when he went to the bench with 2:58 remaining in the quarter.

Seven of Parker’s assists went to Aldridge, the two clearly having developed a comfort level running the pick-and-roll plays that have made Parker one of the NBA’s best point guards for more than a decade.

“He was in a great rhythm tonight,” said Duncan, the Spurs captain who scored 11 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in 21 efficient minutes. “Obviously, we ran a lot of pick and rolls with him, his specialty in the middle and finding people. It helps when (Aldridge) is shooting well. Obviously, Tony has great control of the offense. He knows what we want and he knows what Pop wants. It’s good to see him rolling like that.”

Parker has altered his game as much as any Spur since the arrival of Aldridge signaled a new approach to the team’s offense. He genuinely enjoys his floor general role as much as the role he played as the team’s top scorer for four seasons, 2010-11 through 2013-14. He was but one assist shy of his career high (17) on Thursday, and credits Aldridge’s steady perimeter shooting and his consistency in positioning himself on pick and roll plays.

“I know exactly where he’s going to be,” Parker said. “And it’s funny, because even if he hits five shots in row, (the defenders) are still both staying with me and I’m like, ‘Go to LaMarcus … Go towards him.’ They still give him that wide open shot and he got a lot today. He got a lot of shots tonight and he’s been knocking them down, I feel LaMarcus is feeling more and more comfortable with the system and he’s been great.”

With the Trail Blazers out of the way, The Spurs finally can begin to think about their re-match with Golden State.

Their focus now is to keep the game in perspective. The hype, said 39-year-old team captain Duncan, is for the media and the fans.

“It’s whatever you guys want to make it,” he told reporters begging to know how important the game is to him and his teammates. “We’re going to show up for the game and we’re going to play it. It’s not going to change our season or anything else. It will be a great matchup for us, obviously two of the best records in the league. They’re playing exceptionally well so it’s a good test for us, a good playoff type atmosphere and playoff intensity and a good experience for us.

“I’ll leave it at that.”

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

*Top Image: The San Antonio Spurs 2015-2016 Roster and Coaching Staff.  Photo by Scott Ball. Related Stories:

Spurs go to 33-0 on AT&T Center Court With Big 4th Quarter vs. Clippers

Green’s ‘Screw It’ 3-pointer Helps Spurs Stay Perfect at Home

Popovich: Change in Spurs Ownership Structure ‘Win-Win for Everybody’

Veteran Sharpshooter Kevin Martin Becomes Latest Addition to Spurs Roster

Shorthanded Again, Spurs Bounce Back Behind Aldridge, Miller

Minus Popovich – and Their Shooting Touch – Spurs Fall to Pacers

Mike Monroe

Mike Monroe is a longtime, award-winning NBA and Spurs reporter who recently retired from the Express-News and is now contributing to the Rivard Report.