After making it through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs unscathed, the Spurs returned to practice Wednesday to start preparing for their highly anticipated series with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals.
The Spurs, who completed a sweep of the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night, are riding a franchise-record 18-game winning streak and went 2-1 against the Thunder in the lockout-shortened regular season.
Moreover, the Spurs have won eight of their last 10 games against the Thunder.
But none of that will matter, the Spurs say, when the teams clash in a series that has all the elements and storylines of a classic.
"The playoffs are a totally different environment," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "We don't even have to consider what happened before, (much) less two years ago."
Game 1 is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the AT&T Center.
"It's going to be a long series, and we have to make sure we're ready," point guard Tony Parker said.
The Spurs and Thunder were seeded No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the Western Conference playoff bracket.
Parker-Westbrook matchup will be in spotlight
The series will feature the Spurs' Big Three – Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili – against the Thunder's young, talented trio of Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
After battling All-Star Chris Paul in the previous series, Parker will face another elite point guard in Westbrook, who scored 28 points in the Thunder's series-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.
"Great matchup," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Both are terrific players, tough competitors. Great for the fans to watch."
Parker, a four-time NBA All-Star himself, said he is looking forward to the challenge of playing against Westbrook.
"Definitely," Parker said. "That's why you play basketball. Chris Paul was a great challenge and now I have another one. Westbrook is obviously going to take a lot of shots, and he's going to be super aggressive.
"He's definitely the head of the snake on his team. He gets them going. Obviously, Durant is the best scorer in the league, but I think Westbrook is the one who makes them go."
Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who led the league in scoring this season with 28 points per game, are both only 23 years old.
Durant, who went to the NBA after only season at Texas, is averaging 26.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in the playoffs.
Parker scored 42 points in game against Thunder this season
"He does everything very, very well," Popovich said of Durant. "That's for sure. They've got a lot gifted guys. He's not the only one that scores, so there are a lot of problems that one has to deal with with the Thunder. They're one hell of a team, really well coached, disciplined. They're pretty special."
Oklahoma City won the first meeting between the teams this season, 108-96 on Jan. 8 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. But the Spurs came back to the season series with a 107-96 victory Feb. 4 at the AT&T Center and a 114-105 road win March 16.
Parker had a stellar game in the teams' only meeting on the Spurs' home floor this season, scoring a season-high 42 points and dishing out nine assists. Parker hit 16 of 29 field-goal attempts and was 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.
Westbrook and Durant led the Thunder with 38 and 25 points, respectively, in the Thunder's 114-105 loss, while every Spurs starter scored in double figures. Parker paced San Antonio with 25 points, followed by DeJuan Blair (22), Danny Green (21), Duncan (16) and Kawhi Leonard (15).
Ginobili did not play in any of the games against the Thunder because he was sidelined with injuries.
Ginobili said it matters "a little bit" that he hasn't played against the Thunder this season "because you don't get a feel on how they guard you, or what they do on pick-and-rolls.
"It is kind of awkward, the fact that I haven't played them. The first game is going to be very important for me to understand what's going on."
Spurs vs. Thunder schedule
Western Conference finals
Game 1: at San Antonio, Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: at San Antonio, Tuesday, May 29, 8 p.m.
Game 3: at Oklahoma City, Thursday, May 31, 8 p.m.
Game 4: at Oklahoma City, Saturday, June 2, 7:30 p.m.
*Game 5: at San Antonio, Monday, June 4, 8 p.m.
*Game 6: at Oklahoma City, Wednesday, June 6, 8 p.m.
*Game 7: at San Antonio, Friday, June 8, 8 p.m.
All times Central
* If necessary