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Spurs realize there might not be many opportunities left

Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs looks

Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs looks to pass against the Miami Heat during Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 10, 2014 in Miami. Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons

MIAMI - Tim Duncan and Tony Parker accounted for the two misses when the Spurs started out shooting 19-for-21 in Game 3 Tuesday night, and Danny Green kidded them about it after he found out.

"I didn't realize it until after the game," the North Babylon product said. "I texted and called Timmy and Tony [Wednesday] night, 'What are you guys doing, man? You're messing up the records, the statistics."

Green said he got no response from his teammates. But the Spurs expected a response from the Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals Thursday night after the 111-92 beating they put on the two-time NBA champs on their home court.

Chris Bosh called Game 4 "a must win" because the Heat didn't want to be down 3-1 with the series moving to San Antonio for Game 5 on Sunday. The Spurs had a similar approach, but for different reasons.

San Antonio let a 3-2 advantage over the Heat in last year's championship series slip away, giving up a lead in the closing seconds of Game 6 when they could have won the fifth title of the Duncan-Gregg Popovich era and fourth for Parker and Manu Ginobili. They lost that game in overtime, then dropped Game 7.

The Spurs have been on a mission to avenge that failure. They had the best record in the NBA this season, dispatched some heady competition in the Western Conference playoffs and now hope to end Miami's reign.

If the Spurs didn't already have a sense of urgency, there is always the undeniable truth that San Antonio's core four won't be together forever. At some point, they could be staring at their last run, and you never know -- this finally could be it.

"I try not to think about it because I hope they stay forever so we can continue to win games and have winning seasons," Green said. "But we do know this opportunity doesn't come often. We knew this last year and the year before. We don't know how many years we're going to have these guys, so we have to play every season like it's our last."

You have to marvel at the Spurs, particularly in this era in which superstars join forces. The Heat did it with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and there have been reports of adding a fourth in Miami: Carmelo Anthony.

The Spurs, on the other hand, grew a dynastic team organically. Popovich took over as coach in 1996. Duncan was drafted in 1997. Parker was chosen in the 2001 draft and Ginobili played his first season with the Spurs one year later. Duncan spurned a chance to leave and team with Grant Hill in Orlando, and it proved to be a brilliant decision.

Duncan is widely regarded as the best power forward in NBA history. The stoic, unemotional superstar said something quite poignant when he was asked to reflect on his hardware-filled Hall of Fame-caliber career.

"In the last couple of years, I've really kind of taken a step back and stopped and enjoyed what the journey means," Duncan said. "As it comes to a close on my career -- and I know it is -- I appreciate it more. I appreciate every game more. I appreciate every accomplishment and everything that we get to go through and every experience, knowing that it might be the last time I do it."

The city of San Antonio, the Spurs organization and Green have to brace for that day because the time will come when this version of the core four won't be together anymore.

"I hope they stay," Green said. "As long as I'm here, I hope they're here."

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