Starting out with made shots and a sense of aggressiveness was exactly the look I expected from the Spurs. How long they could maintain that run was in question. I was fully prepared to see a nice little 15-5 run to open followed by the Thunder unleashing that torrent of offense and rebounding and defense that flustered the Spurs these last three games.
Intead it was the Stephen Jackson-Tony Parker combo that went crazy. Jackson had four threes at halftime (4-4) and Tony went HAM with 21 points and 10 assists to my immeasurable relief.
So what happened in that first half? First, you must have noticed that when the Thunder missed, they didn’t get many easy put-backs. Also, most importantly, they weren’t getting easy buckets of TURNOVERS! Thats’s right. Instead of committing basketball suicide by coughing it up on offense, the Spurs were showing no hesitation, making shots (%60 from 3).
Everyone knew OKC was going to come out gunning and they did. There simply was no stopping it. The lead was fifteen to start, then it was eleven. Then it was ten. Timmy was getting hesitant on that free-throw line jumper. Everyone was missing shots. The rotations were too slow. Pop yanked Tiago and yelled at him. That didn’t really help. Durant hit free throws to make it eight. Duncan missed a jumper. Ibaka punches it.. Down to six.
Spurs countered with Jackson, Tony Kawhi, Ginibili, and Tim. Four quick Timmy points sandwiched a Durant three. Lead was 7. Durant got a dunk. Five. Jackson trades threes with Westbrook and Thabo. No one is making anything. Lead is down to one. Durant hits a three.
We are down one.
Spurs trade baskets involving spins, technicals fouls and missed free throws and get out of that terrible third quarter up one point.
The fourth quarter was a blur. That blur was the Thunder racing by. Tony and Tim sat to start the quarter with the thinking that they would need to go hard for the final eight minutes or so. That left SA with Gary Neal doing …. well, something.
Then it didn’t so much slip away as it did stay frustratingly out of reach. In a different time, against a different team, the Spurs get the breaks they need to close the gap. Instead, the Thunder stayed tantalizingly ahead by four or five or seven or three for the rest of the game.
Suddenly it was over. I knew it when Stephen Jackson missed a three. He finished 6/7 from deep and 5/6 from the line.
The Spurs finish the season 50-16 in the regular season and 10-4 in the playoffs winning 11, 11, and 20 in a row at different points. They go out on a four-game losing streak.
And so it ends. For a good number of fans this was worse than any of the other heartbreaks (2004, 2006) because Tim is 36, and Manu 35. This loss seemingly signals the end.
Yet that is the strange part about being a Spurs fan. They’ve never done it like other teams. When they won titles they slightly disappointed because they didn’t win back-to-backs. They’ve been written off in 2000 (asterisk), 2004 (getting old), 2006 (old, again) 2008 (old) 2009-2011 (old), and now? (Really old).
We’ve all been really lucky to follow this organization. Since 1976 there have only been a handful of truly mediocre years and a whole lot of deep playoff runs. I don’t blame anyone for having adjusted expectations, but I do think everyone owes it to their sanity to get a broader perspective of the situation. We have a really awesome franchise that can muster up a conference final appearance with two old guys, a frenchman, and a bunch of castoffs.
These last two years have ended disappointingly but only because the regular seasons were so surprisingly awesome. I wouldn’t trade this franchise for any other one. Not the Lakers, or Boston or Chicago.
Danny Green is young, hungry and motived (read his tweets post-loss). Kawhi Leonard might be an elite shut-down defender in a couple years. Tony Parker still has three elite years left. Tim is aging gracefully. Ginobili can always muster some magic if Paul Pierce and KG can. Stephen Jackson is home again, and makes love to pressure. Gary Neal, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, et al are solid role players that can win regular season games. We probably just need one or two guys that can win us playoff games. That is entirely possible. We did manage to swap out Richard Jefferson for Stack Jack. Now let’s swap out Matt Bonner for … . ?
Go Spurs Go.
2013 is our year.