Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and the San Antonio Spurs are back in the Western Conference finals for the second straight season with the same style that has carried them to four NBA titles.
Don't call these guys old just yet.
After wearing down the younger Golden State Warriors in a grueling six-game series, the Spurs look as spry as ever. And they already know what to expect when they open the conference finals at home against Memphis on Sunday.
"It's going to be a rough one," Duncan said. "If you thought this was physical, it's going to turn up about 10 notches."
San Antonio has shown it can still grind out a series.
Duncan had 19 points and six rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the Spurs held off a furious final rally to eliminate the Warriors with a 94-82 victory Thursday night.
Parker shook off a poor start to score 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and Tiago Splitter added a career-playoff high 14 points for San Antonio, which watched a 13-point lead in the third quarter dissolve to two in the final minutes. But the Spurs stayed steady, just the way they have for nearly two decades, and avoided the perils of a decisive Game 7 against Golden State.
"They've got great character. They're competitive. They know there's not a million chances to do this sort of thing. They wanted it," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his squad.
Stephen Curry shot 10 of 25 from the floor to score 22 points on a nagging left ankle, and Jarrett Jack had 15 points as the injury-saddled Warriors finally tired. Rookie forward Harrison Barnes injured his head in the second quarter, returned in the third and was sidelined in the fourth with a headache.
The Spurs outshot Golden State 45 percent to 39 percent and outrebounded the Warriors 46 to 40 to put themselves in position to make another championship run.
The fifth-seeded Grizzlies eliminated Oklahoma City in five games. Memphis and San Antonio split the season series 2-2.
"It's not going to be pretty, sorry. It's just not going to be," Duncan said.
The Spurs lost to the Thunder in the conference finals in six games last season after going ahead 2-0 at home. They haven't been to the NBA Finals since 2007, when they won their fourth title with a sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I think everybody on the team, we all want to go one more time," Parker said. "It's been a long time."
The Spurs became the first team to win consecutive games in the series and hand the sixth-seeded Warriors consecutive losses in the playoffs — and they did it at just the right time.
The Spurs quieted a standing-room-only crowd late in the third quarter and seemingly seized control for good. Instead, the Warriors roared back.
Klay Thompson, who had 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting, made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that sliced San Antonio's lead to three. Then Curry's pull-up jumper brought the Warriors within 77-75 with 4:52 to play.
Parker was 1 for 13 before hitting a corner 3-pointer and Leonard followed with two free throws to put the Spurs up seven.
Jack made a jumper and two free throws to bring the Warriors back again. Then Leonard hit another shot from beyond the arc to put the Spurs ahead 85-79.
Curry and Thompson each had consecutive 3s rim out on the same possession that could've kept Golden State close. But Parker hit another 3-pointer to put San Antonio up 88-79 with 1:15 remaining and send some of the yellow-shirted crowd of 19,596 to the exits.
"I just kept believing in me," said Parker, who added eight assists and finished 3 for 16 from the floor. "My teammates, they were behind me. They would keep telling me, 'Keep shooting, they'll go in.'"
In the end, most of the Warriors' faithful still stuck around.
Fans serenaded the home team with chants of "Warr-i-ors!" in the final seconds. Curry grabbed a microphone after the game and thanked fans at half court, breaking the huddle with the crowd, "Just us!"
The Warriors had only made the playoffs once since 1994 before this season and hadn't won two games beyond the first round since 1977.
"It's inspiring to think of what we were able to accomplish this year and the foundation that has been laid," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.
Added Curry: "It will take a minute to realize the accomplishments we have made, for a Warriors team to be in this position, it's a good thing, and we can build on this for next year."
The Spurs showed incredible ball movement and had the Warriors playing from behind most of the way. San Antonio's first 10 field goals came on an assist, going ahead by 10 points in the second quarter and maintaining that cushion until late.
Golden State stayed close despite more injury setbacks in a season full of them.
Andrew Bogut walked gingerly to the locker room with 8:31 remaining in the second quarter to get his troublesome left ankle re-taped. At one point, he told Jackson he "couldn't move."
"I was running on fumes the whole series," said Bogut, who had three points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.
In the second quarter, Barnes fell awkwardly while leaping to contest a layup from Boris Diaw. Barnes hit the court hard and his teammates immediately called for the training staff to attend to him as the arena fell silent. He received six stitches above his right eye at halftime and ran on the court late to start the third quarter, bringing fans to their feet roaring once more.
At least for a moment.
Barnes left the game in the fourth quarter because of a headache. The team said he had passed a concussion test and followed NBA protocol before he returned. Barnes finished with nine points and four rebounds in 31 minutes.
The steady Spurs kept making the Warriors work for every shot and grinding out points on the other end. San Antonio took a 61-48 lead late in the third quarter before Golden State started its final surge.
NOTES: NBA Commissioner David Stern, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and prospective Kings owner Vivek Ranadive attended the game. ... The Spurs are 10-1 in closeout games since the start of the 2007 playoffs. ... Parker's worst shooting performance in the playoffs with more than five shot attempts came when he was 1 of 12 against New Jersey in the 2003 NBA Finals won by the Spurs. ... The Warriors fell to 4-1 after a loss in the playoffs.