NBA: Spurs Adventure to the Finals
In a postgame interview following the San Antonio Spurs’ Game Six victory in the Western Conference Finals, Tim Duncan broke out of the norm by saying some controversial words. Duncan is anticipating a different result in the NBA Finals this year in their rematch with the Miami Heat after saying, “We have four more to win. We’ll do it this time.” Duncan is shooting for his fifth NBA championship in his career, which may be a good way to go out—on top.
The San Antonio Spurs enjoyed a 62-20 regular season full of steady contribution from everyone on the roster, Coach Gregg Popovich resting his key players (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili) for games televised on ESPN or TNT, and a pair of 10+ game winning streaks to help them clinch the Western Conference’s first seed in the playoffs.
San Antonio started out 2-1 before rattling off 11 straight victories. In hindsight, only three (Golden State, Memphis, and Washington) of the 11 teams in that winning streak made it to the playoffs. Their second long winning streak was much more impressive however with this one being 19 consecutive victories (22 of 23 with the only loss being to Phoenix). This winning streak contained six playoff teams from this season, including Indiana, two wins against Golden State, a win in Chicago and even a 24-point dismantling of their counterparts in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat.
From Friday, January 17 through Wednesday, January 29 the Spurs almost seemed human. San Antonio went 2-5 in a seven game stretch, including a season long three-game losing streak to the hands of the Heat on the road, the Rockets on the road, and the Bulls at home. Other losses during this seven-game period included at home against Portland and at home against Oklahoma City. So they lost to five potential playoff teams, dang… They really lost to some crappy competition in those two weeks. The Spurs only lost consecutive games twice all year (other occurrence was games 81 and 82 against Houston and the Lakers) finishing with a record of 16-3 in bounce-back games.
Kawhi Leonard emerged as the potential future of the San Antonio Spurs this season by posting some great numbers, while still making way for future Hall of Famers in Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. Leonard finished third on the team in minutes (29.1), third on the team in points (12.8), second on the team in rebounding (6.2), first on the team in steals (1.7), third on the team in blocks (0.8), and finished third on the team in player efficiency rating (19.4) ahead of Tony Parker. He shot 52% from the field, as he strayed away from the outside shot and drove to the basket more this year, while also being named to the 2nd Team All-NBA Defense team. Leonard was key to the Spurs success in the second round of the playoffs this year against Portland in which he averaged 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the series victory.
Playoff Series Recaps:
Being in the Western Conference was no easy task this year. The Spurs ensured themselves home-court throughout the playoffs by capturing the NBA’s best record in the regular season, but that didn’t mean they were going to be given a free ride to the Finals. Up first for San Antonio was the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks finished the regular season at 49-33 and would have been the number three seed in the playoffs had they been in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they were faced with the daunting challenge of going head-to-head with the Spurs in the first round. The Mavericks didn’t back down however. Vince Carter gave Dallas a 2-1 series lead on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the corner in Game Three, but the Spurs would have none of it. San Antonio came back and won the next two games to take a 3-2 series lead, before dropping an exciting Game Six 113-111 to Dallas, forcing Game Seven in San Antonio. Tony Parker snatched the reins of the game right from the beginning and never let up. Parker finished with 32 points in Game Seven to carry the Spurs to a 119-96 victory and a bid to the second round against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers.
I would be lying if I said that the adrenaline-rushed endings of the first round continued into the second round matchup against Portland. However, Parker continued his masterful play from the first round. In Game One he finished with 33 points and nine assists in the 24-point victory and in the 17-point Game Two win he had 16 points and 10 assists. Sadly, his assist production went down in the 15-point Game Three win where he only had six assists…but! He did have 29 points, so I suppose that may have salvaged his night. The Blazers won Game Four by 11 points and that was their high point of the series, now back to the good Spurs stuff. Parker left Game Five early, but guess who stepped it up in his absence? If you guessed Kawhi Leonard, you’re a winner!!! Leonard finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, and five steals in the contest to clinch the series for the Spurs and move on to the Western Conference Finals to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
San Antonio and Oklahoma City meet again in the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive year. Will the Thunder prevail this time around? Nope. Why? Because the Spurs play that basketball thing pretty well. I’m almost certain I fell asleep around halftime of games one through five as all of them were double-digit (except the nine-point differential in Game Three) victories for the home team. All kidding aside, these games were all neck-and-neck in the first half and very fast paced. Serge Ibaka was supposed to be out of the playoffs with a calf injury yet magically made a comeback in Game Three and helped capture wins for the Thunder in games three and four. The Spurs won games one, two, and five by a combined 80 points, before winning Game Six in overtime in Oklahoma City to set-up the rematch of the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat.
NBA Finals Prediction: Spurs in 7