The biggest disappointment I have ever felt as a Spurs fan was in 2001 when the Lakers came into town for the much-hyped Western Conference Final matchup of the previous two champions. Phil Jackson famously added an asterisk to the Spurs’ ’99 team and won the 2000 title by narrowly slipping by the Blazers in game 7 which required a 15-point comeback. The Spurs had lost Tim Duncan for the playoffs and so were hobbled in their title defense. The Spurs had home court. The Lakers wanted revenge for the ’99 sweep.
Instead of a classic battle, we saw Kobe drop 45 in game 1, the Lakers dominate game 2, and finally blow away the Spurs in the Los Angeles. Derek Fisher hit a record number of threes, and the Spurs were left to question themselves all offseason.
This year’s matchup had a similar air. The Spurs last faced the Warriors before they swapped Mark Jackson for Steve Kerr and began their transcendant three-year run. Steph, Klay, and Draymond were young but gave enough fight to nearly topple the Spurs back then, who needed some crunch-time free throw misses from Richard Jefferson, and Manu Magic to help steal game 1. The two teams played three overtimes in that series (2 in the first game, and one in the fourth). The Spurs went on to be heartbroken in the Finals, and then followed that up with a title the following year (The Dubs lost in seven games to the Clippers).
Since then the Spurs also got beat in seven vs Chris Paul, and got dumped last year by KD and Russ even though they had a franchise record 67 wins. For all the Spurs have done this season, they are clearly limited. The Warriors improved their 73-win squad with an all-time great. Surely there was no plan that could overcome talent.
I believed SA had nothing for the Warriors except maybe one steal game based on Kawhi’s ability and a good shooting night. Now? We are left to wonder what if? Game three was all but decided once Kawhi was ruled out for the game.
— Austin (@Kingtoldme) May 21, 2017
I would not call the feeling I have about this series disappointment. It certainly does not approach the gut-punch that was Kobe dropping buckets at will in the Alamodome back in 2001. I could not help but feel good about the other Spurs that were giving the Warriors a game for three quarters tonight. Even The Greatly Disappointing LaMarcus Aldridge has an excuse: the playmakers he relies heavily on are out. He has to play beyond his well-established abilities.
I think we all know LMA can’t be your 1, and the good news is that he is normally the 2 guy.
— This Guy (@ze_martino) May 21, 2017
It is hard to feel disappointment when the TV guys are all singing the praises. Pop is getting twitter praise like “look how he is getting production from random guys”. Barring a miracle, this is the end of the line for the Spurs on Monday night and it is in a far better fashion than the Rockets or Thunder left on. Hell, Boston played their final home game (likely) and got whacked by 44. To even lose by 40 on Monday would not stain any reputations any further.
I mean, Manu is going out swinging with all his might:
— NBA (@NBA) May 21, 2017
This is what you want to hear:
— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) May 21, 2017
Without Kawhi, there is no chance. We all will point back to game 1 and that 23 point lead as evidence of something like a chance 1. While I want to bottle that narrative and hug it, I have watched this league long enough to know that one game does not tell the story of a series. Hell, last series was evidence of that fact. Part of what makes the NBA great is the series format allowing for the best team to demonstrate its superiority by mitigating the one-off luck night from the equation.
The first game was as Manu described: Spurs playing at ’10’ while the Warriors were playing at ‘7’. Even in this game, they did not have some role player to rely on. They turned to Mr. Bandwagon himself, Kevin Freaking Durant for 13-straight in the 3rd. While even Jalen Rose pointed to the fact that Kawhi was holding KD in game one, we have to remember that Leonard cannot guard everyone. The talent disparity was the reason most sane people expected a Warrior victory with maybe only dropping a game.
I cannot be disappointed in this team. I do have a few questions about LMA, who has come up pretty small in straight playoff years. That is for another time. The series is not officially over, even though we all can see the fat lady warming up.
- And the March 29th game wherein the Spurs did something very similar but with a blown lead in the second quarter instead of the late third. It could be taken as evidence that this was always going to play out as it happened. ↩