SAN ANTONIO There was precious little celebration in the San Antonio Spurs' locker room after they earned the Western Conference championship on Wednesday night with a 109-84 victory over the Utah Jazz at the AT&T Center.
Perhaps that's because the previous two hours had already been a celebration for the Spurs and their fans. Several standing ovations had already been given and graciously received by the hometown players. The team had already been awarded the Western Conference championship trophy along with baseball caps and T-shirts in an on-court ceremony after the game.
The outcome on the floor had never been in doubt from the early minutes of the first quarter. By the time the game came to a merciful end, the Spurs players were pretty much done celebrating, it seemed.
Plus, the Spurs know they have more work to do in order to be satisfied.
"This is just part of the process," said Spurs forward Bruce Bowen.
San Antonio has one more series to win before the real celebration can occur. It will play either the Detroit Pistons or the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. The Spurs will be attempting to win their fourth league title in nine years when the Finals begin a week from tonight in San Antonio.
"I'm happy for all the new guys," said Spurs point guard Tony Parker. "It's an unbelievable experience and it is going to be 50 times better if we go all the way."
Spurs veterans like Parker, Bowen, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Robert Horry all have NBA title rings. Michael Finley, who has spent most of his career as a Dallas Maverick, will be going for his first title, however.
"I'm happy for those guys, especially Michael Finley, you know, and (starting center) Fabricio Oberto," Parker said.
The Spurs took the Jazz to the woodshed early on Wednesday night, getting ahead by as many as 19 points in the first quarter.
"Our first quarter was unbelievable," said Parker, who led the way with 11 first-quarter points. "Our defense was great. Our offense was great. Everybody was knocking down shots. That's why we won the game."
The Spurs may have dominated the Jazz in four of the five games, but they still had plenty of kinds words for their vanquished foe.
"It's important to congratulate the Jazz for a fantastic season and for being back (in the playoffs)," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "They are going to be back more and more every year with a fine group and, obviously, a great coaching staff."
Added Parker, "(The Jazz are) going to be a good team for a long time. They are a young team and I'm sure they learned a lot from the series. And so they are going to be tough in the future. Deron (Willliams), obviously, is going to be a great player."
The Spurs, the oldest team in the NBA, beat the Jazz, one of the youngest. Duncan, a three-time Finals MVP, figures Utah has a bright future.
"They are going to be a great team for a lot of years," Duncan predicted. "With Carlos (Boozer) and Deron and Mehmet (Okur) and A.K. (Andrei Kirilenko), those guys will be around for a long time. This was a great playoff experience for them."
The Spurs, of course, were too smart and savvy to say they have a preferred opponent in the next round.
"It doesn't matter (who we play)," said Bowen. "We're in the Finals, so we're happy with that."But the real celebration in the Alamo City is still four victories away.