Despite their age, the San Antonio Spurs remain on of the NBA’s best teams. Can they make it back to the Finals?
The Story So Far
The Spurs just kept on ticking this season.
It seems each year begins with pundits questioning whether or not Gregg Popovich’s men can keep playing at such a high level, only for the Spurs to cruise to another 50-win season and leave all the doubters with egg on their faces once again.
It has been another stereotypically Spurs-like season in San Antonio as Tim Duncan and co. seemingly coasted to their 15th consecutive season with at least 50 regular season wins – a streak that could have been even longer if it wasn’t for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season that saw San Antonio go 37-13 (they went 56-26 the year before).
They currently own the best record in the league (61-18) and have a three-and-a-half game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference.
The Spurs rattled off winning streaks of at least six games three times during the year, including an 11-game streak in early January and a franchise record 19 consecutive wins from late February to early April.
However, despite their regular season success, San Antonio has not strayed from their strict policy of saving their star’s legs for the playoffs. No one on their roster averaged more than 30 minutes per game or appeared in every contest – Tony Parker (29.7 minutes per game/65 of 79 games), Duncan (29.0/73), Manu Ginobili (22.7/66) and even Kawhi Leonard (29.0/64) all receiving monitored minutes throughout the regular season.
They are well coached, well rested and will be hungrier than ever after coming within one defensive rebound of winning it all last season.
Another nonchalantly impressive regular season down, now it is time for the real stuff in San Antonio.
Postseason Performer to Watch
Despite playing the third-fewest minutes per game of his career, Old Man Duncan still put up 15.1 points (at 49.0% from the floor), 9.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.9 blocks per game this season.
At this point in his career, Duncan is playing for the playoffs. He is well rested and ready to step up in the postseason like he did last season.
He dropped 18.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game on the Heat during the Finals last season, including a monstrous 30 points and 17 rebounds in Game 6.
Just like the Spurs, Duncan just keeps on hooping.
San Antonio had a magnificent regular season thanks to the contributions from their entire roster, but Duncan is the X-Factor that can push them over the top in the postseason.
Despite coaching an aging team, Popovich has reinvented the Spurs as a free-flowing offensive juggernaut (seventh in the league for points per game – 105.4 – and 11th in pace – 94.9) while remaining true to their lofty defensive standards (fifth in opponents PPG – 97.2 – and third in defensive rating – 102.0).
San Antonio is a brilliant team with the league’s most experienced “Big Three” and a mastermind coach. And their supporting cast of Danny Green, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Leonard all have Finals experience. Meanwhile, Marco Belinelli has filled the void left by Gary Neal admirably.
However, they went 0-4 against their biggest Western Conference rivals Oklahoma City during the regular season – their super athleticism proving to be the Spurs foil time and time again. Since falling to 0-2 against the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals in 2012, OKC is 10-2 against their Texan opponents.
Anything less than a championship will be a disappointment in San Antonio, but the one team they need to get past to get there is one of their worst match ups.
It has been a record-breaking season in San Antonio, but if they come up against a fully healthy Thunder squad, that historic run will come to an end.
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