Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder closed out game 6 in San Antonio to knock out a side which had until very recently given the impression of becoming a post-season juggernaut.
Behind 34 points and 14 rebounds from Kevin Durant and a 25/8/5 stat line from Russell Westbrook (few will be surprised that he and Durant ended up with the same number of assists), along with 16 points from James Harden, the Thunder saw off decent performances from Tim Duncan (25 and 14) and Tony Parker (29 and 12 assists) and a transcendent performance from Stephen Jackson who went 6-7 from three point range to finish with 23 points.
Until they went to Oklahoma City, the Spurs had not lost for twenty games. Since they arrived there on May 31st, they have lost four in a row and have dropped out of the 2012 playoffs, which many predicted them to win. The Spurs, often cited as the best coached team in the league, perhaps second-guessed themselves with the decision to start Manu Ginobili in the last two games of the series, a move which rather negated the Argentinian’s impact off the bench. As all good coaches understand, it’s not who starts so much as who finishes.
The Spurs this season had been playing a brand of basketball which belied their “boring” tag. There was not much boring about the way Parker sliced through defenses, how Duncan defied age and a 66 games in 120 days season to produce basketball not seen from him in years, how Boris Diaw shook off his miserable time in Charlotte (not to mention his man boobs) to become a serious contributor, how Danny Green overcame being waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers and some serious time in the D-League to make the Spurs starting rotation this season and how Kawhi Leonard made NBA GM’s across the nation look foolish for drafting, well, pretty much anyone other than Kyrie Irving ahead of him.
However, now the Spurs season is at an end, we are reminded that Tim Duncan will be blowing out 37 candles at his next birthday and had been dragging his left knee around for a good few seasons. Manu Ginobili will turn 35 this July and has been playing the role of slasher to great effectiveness in the NBA for a decade. Tony Parker also has nearly 1,000 NBA games on the clock.
For my money, the Spurs reputation as a boring team is more a result of careful management on the part of coach Greg Popvich and the ownership team. Aside from Parker’s 2010 divorce and alleged affair with the spouse of a certain former team-mate, there is not a great deal which is known about terribly many of the Spurs roster. Compared with the media circuses that are the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, etc, etc, the Spurs are in a relatively small market. Indeed they are the only show in town, so to speak, in San Antonio. It is therefore surprising that the San Antonio media has not circled their wagons around the team in an effort to reveal more about the squad.
How many of us knew that Tiago Splitter was actually born in Belfast and was separated from his smaller, but otherwise identical twin, Paul Dick, at a young age? Tiago got the height, Paul got the jumpshot.
In all seriousness, though, this could well be the end of the current Spurs squad. Ginobili himself admitted in a recent interview that their window was closing. While he has struggled with injuries this season, it must be the health of Duncan which causes Spurs fans the most concern. He cannot go on forever, but we must remember that he and Popovich came very close to achieving titles thirteen years apart. What an achievement that would have been. Even Michael Jordan’s last title was a mere seven years after his first.