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San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan is congratulated as he walks off the court during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Monday, April 23, 2012, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 124-89, clinching the top seed in the Western Conference. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
NBA: San Antonio’s three stars present test for Utah Jazz
First Published Apr 28 2012 11:07 pm • Last Updated Apr 29 2012 12:00 am

San Antonio’s Big Three has evolved and shifted over time, always consistent, always dangerous and destined to end with the trio in the Hall of Fame.

On Sunday morning, in Game 1 of the Western Conference first round, the Utah Jazz will attempt to crack the greatness of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

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It will be anything but easy. The Jazz know that. In fact, it can be argued that now, with the three older than ever in age only, defending them is even harder than it was five years ago.

For so long, Duncan was the constant, the one through whom the Spurs offense flowed. Then, it was Ginobili’s turn, as the talented lefty shooting guard took his time as the first option. Now? It’s Parker, who has had an MVP kind of season, even if the award is destined to officially land with LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

"It’s hard to deal with them because they have so many ways of beating you," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "They are very consistent, and they know how to play. We have to be respectful, but go at them at the same time. They’re all great players for sure."

Last season, San Antonio tasted defeat in the first round, as the Spurs were bounced by an athletic, talented and hungry Memphis Grizzlies team. San Antonio coach Greg Popovich took that loss upon himself, blaming himself for burning Duncan and Ginobili out during the regular season in pursuit of the top seed.

Things have been different this year, as Popovich took plenty of opportunity to rest his three stars, once putting a Did Not Play next to Duncan’s name and citing "old" as the reason for the power forward not playing that night.

The three have been fresh down the stretch. The Spurs, as a result of all of the rest, look to be the deepest team in the NBA, legitimately going 11 deep with guys who have seen significant minutes during the season.

Against the Jazz, however, one can expect San Antonio to play its three stars as much as possible. And Parker’s emergence this season, combined with Utah’s inability to defend the pick and roll this season, is huge reason for Jazz fans to be worried.

"It’s tough to match up with them, but we’re going to be ready," Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They have a lot of guys that they can throw at you, so we just have to prepare for them and go out and play. Every matchup is going to be key for us."


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