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The Warriors may own this season, but they can’t shake the Spurs

They don’t get the fanfare of the Golden State Warriors, but Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs are every bit as good. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The 2015-16 NBA season has been all about the Golden State Warriors. From their season-opening 24-game winning streak to their chase for the all-time wins record to Stephen Curry’s obliteration of the 3-point shooting mark like Babe Ruth hitting 60 homers in 1927, the Warriors are the first – and only – topic of conversation in the NBA these days.

But while no one would dispute that, there is still one inescapable truth about this NBA season: for Golden State to do the things it wants to, it’s going to have to go through San Antonio.

Think about this for a second: the Warriors head into Wednesday night’s home game against the hapless New York Knicks with a 60-6 record, putting them on pace to go 74-8 this season. After the Spurs won at home against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night, they are on pace to win 69 games.

Before the year began, only one team – the 1996 Chicago Bulls – ever won more than 69 games. That’s the kind of rarified air we’re talking about here. And for all of the dominance of the Warriors, the Spurs belong in it too.

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That’s what makes Saturday’s game between these two teams in San Antonio so fascinating. Over the final 16 games of the regular season, the Warriors still have to face the Spurs three more times. That includes two trips to San Antonio, where the Spurs – like the Warriors in Oakland – remain undefeated this season. The fact the Warriors still haven’t locked up the top seed in the Western Conference, despite their historic level of play and success, speaks to the way San Antonio has stormed through their schedule.

So why has San Antonio lacked the kind of national attention that Golden State has gotten? Some of it has to do with the way the Spurs comport themselves. From coach Gregg Popovich on down, San Antonio eschews the spotlight in every way. They’re courteous to the media, but hardly inviting; like they do on the court, they expend just enough energy to expertly get the job done, and then move on to the next item on their to-do list.

Some of it comes down to market. Golden State is doing what it’s doing in the Bay Area, while San Antonio is doing it in the heart of Texas, just a bit farther off the beaten path. Some of it can be traced to the only meeting between the two resulting in a blowout win for the Warriors in Oakland back in January.

And some of it, of course, remains the singular force of nature that is the Warriors, from Curry and Draymond Green on down the roster. The Warriors win, and don’t have a problem telling you about it. That’s part of what makes them so compelling, and so interesting to so many.

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It’s also something San Antonio has never cared about.

The best part about this, though, is that none of it will matter when these two teams get on the court, presumably in a seven-game series in the Western Conference Finals starting in late May. That’s the one series every basketball fan in the world has been waiting to see since October.

Saturday will mark San Antonio’s first chance at a rebuttal since that humiliating loss  on Jan. 25, a 120-90 blowout that saw prized free agent signing LaMarcus Aldridge go 2-for-9 and score five points in 25 minutes before he promptly deleting his social media accounts in the wake of the loss.

In the past few days, though, the Spurs have summarily dispatched both two of their chief rivals in San Antonio. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday, outscoring them by 10 in the fourth quarter to put the game away as they methodically executed their game plan to perfection while the Thunder self-destructed.

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It was a similar exercise Tuesday against the Clippers, who were in the game through three quarters before the Spurs outscored them 37-17 in the fourth to keep their pristine home record, now 33-0, intact.

Assuming the Spurs can take care of business Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers (no sure thing, given the way Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can go off at any given time), San Antonio will get its chance to show the Warriors Saturday night that the January meeting was a fluke result.

It’ll be a chance for the Spurs to remind everyone that, in a year where the Warriors have dominated every conversation and grabbed every headline, their stalking horse hasn’t gone anywhere. Golden State owns this season, no questions asked. But if the Warriors want to emerge from it with a second straight title in their possession, they’re going to have to take down the Spurs to do it.