Category: Featured (page 1 of 3)

Twist

2017 Western Conference Finals
San Antonio 111, Golden State 113
Warriors lead series 1-0

Not like this.

I didn’t think the Spurs had much of a chance of winning this series, but I at least wanted an honest go of it. I wanted the best the Spurs had to offer being pushed to their limits. I wanted to see how the team responded, and what fight they had in them to push the seemingly invincible Warriors.

We’ll still see that fight, surely; but I don’t know how much resistance they can offer without their best player and lynchpin of the whole operation on both sides of the ball.

What a start to Game 1. After 24 minutes, every Spurs fan was dreaming the impossible “what if?” A 20-point lead against a lethargic Warriors team and a real opportunity to steal one in Oakland. If there was a path to winning this series, the first half of Game 1 laid it bare: steal Game 1, catching the Warriors a bit rusty and overconfident; take 2 of 3 games in San Antonio (likely 1 of Game 3 or 4, and Game 6). Just get to that Game 7 and see what was possible.

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The Boogeyman

The Spurs are not beating the Warriors.

Having said that, let me now couch it a bit: barring a series of events as numbered as they are unlikely, the Spurs will not beat the Warriors four times in seven chances.

So why care? Because this might be the most important series for the future of the Spurs franchise.

The Warriors are the benchmark, the gauge upon which every other Western Conference team will be measured for the foreseeable future. For the Spurs to reclaim their spot at the top, they will necessarily need to get past this seemingly unbeatable Warriors team.

The first round of data gathering begins today.

This series is a science lab, a four to seven game experiment to begin to truly understand this Warriors team, what makes them tick, and where they might ultimately be vulnerable.

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Destroyed and Defeated

2017 Western Conference Semifinals
San Antonio 114, Houston 75
Spurs win series 4-2

I was optimistic heading into Game 6, with or without Kawhi Leonard. But I never expected this.

No one could have. As Jeff Van Gundy noted late, given circumstance and situation, this might have been the most impressive playoff road victory ever. In the history of the NBA. There are surely more dominating ones (maybe?), but none with the importance and the supposed disparity of motivation and talent. The Spurs eviscerated the Rockets.

We could look at every number and find domination. We could look at every matchup and find domination. I could list every player on the Spurs roster (just about) and wax poetically about how they contributed to the win; and how the Spurs epitomize the team over the individual; about how trust in a system, trust in your teammates, and trust in yourself is powerful. But I’ll spare you all of that. I watched the game, you watched the game; we know what we saw.

We should single out LaMarcus Aldridge, though. This was everything we’ve always wanted from him (and everything we thought we were getting from him, which is why we’re all so salty about him all the time). It wasn’t just the scoring, or the rebounding, or the swagger of being the best player on the court (something he was quite often in Portland). For me, it was his aggression and his decisiveness. He knew what he wanted to do and he did it. Nothing could stop him.

His role isn’t always scoring anymore, and I try to judge him more on his engagement and activity than his numbers. With Kawhi the center of the offense, there is little room for this LaMarcus. But it’s nice to see that it’s still there, and it gives me hope that there is still a dominant offense to be built around our two stars.

Let’s also give a little shine to Dejounte Murray. He played critical minutes in this game and he played them well. He’s not there yet, but he has a chance to be a very special player, a devastating PG in this NBA and a perfect complement to Kawhi. His size and speed are incredible, and if he ever puts it all together, he’ll be a star. I’m not ready to hand the keys over just yet, but I’d feel comfortable with a Patty Mills / DeJounte duo heading forward.

Spurs fans, rejoice. This series, in many ways, was our Finals. Thinking realistically, the best-case result for this season was the Conference Finals. The San Antonio Spurs beating the Golden State Warriors is a near-impossible task; but making it to the Western Conference Finals in what is essentially a transition year shows us that the future is bright and the Spurs mojo is still strong.

Before the playoffs I said that anything short of the WCF would be a disappointment. We’re here, I’m happy, the season was a success. The rest will be pure bonus.

So before we start worrying about the Warriors (helpful hint: don’t), let’s bask in the joy of another productive season, and another Conference Finals. We take these deep playoff runs for granted sometimes, and this is a perfect season to enjoy the process of it as much as the end result.

I can’t think of any better way to have achieved that end result than by absolutely destroying the Houston Rockets.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals begins Sunday afternoon in Oakland.

Go Spurs Go.

Featured photo credit: Getty Images

The 7 Best Memes of Manu Ginobili Blocking James Harden

AP Photo/Eric Gay

It was the block heard around the world.

With seconds to play in overtime Tuesday night, 39-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Manu Ginobili blocked 27-year-old James Harden and the San Antonio Spurs held on to beat the Houston Rockets 110-107.

Let that sink in for a second.

And then think about this: James Harden “was 9-years-old when the Spurs drafted Ginobili with the second-to-last pick of the 1999 NBA draft – or 34 picks after Devean George.”

You’ll find 5 great photos of the block and the moments that followed on USA Today Sports.

What follows are some of our favorite fan-generated memes.

Enjoy.


 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Bear Down

2017 Western Conference Playoffs, First Round
San Antonio 103, Memphis 96
Spurs win series 4-2

It only took 10 games for one of these teams to find an edge over the other on the road.

All credit to Memphis: they are a bear to play. What they lack in quality they make up for with determination and execution. They never let the other team get too much separation, and they continually find answers in clutch situations. In reality, this was a 5-game series in which the Spurs came out on the wrong end of a few too many 50-50 situations. But that’s what Memphis does: they consistently win the moments that have no reason to them.

The Spurs showed their own grit and grind in Game 6, though. There were a few key stretches to the game. After playing relatively even in the first half, Memphis opened up a 10-point lead in the 3rd quarter. The Grizzlies could have pulled away here, but the Spurs clawed their way back into it.

The key stats of the quarter: 8 offensive rebounds, 9 second chance points, 10 free throws. Effort and physicality.

Again in the 4th, Memphis opened up a bit of a lead, pulling out to an 88-81 score with just about six minutes left. To close the game, though, San Antonio showed their championship pedigree, closing on an extended 15-8 run, clamping down on defense and executing just enough against the bruising Memphis defense to gut out the road win.

Brandon Dill/Associated Press

As with most games, we should start with Kawhi. While he didn’t shoot as well as he had in previous games (only 8-for-19), and while he was met with resistance at every turn and every drive, he found a way to get it done. It wasn’t fluid, and it wasn’t always pretty, but Kawhi leveraged most every situation to the Spurs advantage. In the second and third quarters, it was drawing fouls and keeping the team afloat at the line. In the fourth, when the attention turned squarely to him, he continued to show his playmaking touch for two huge assists late (and another two passes that led to wide open shots or easy baskets without the assist credit). He was easily the best player in this series. (Coach Pop thinks Kawhi Leonard is the “best player in the league right now.”)

The Spurs second best player in the Grizzlies season? Tony Parker. It wasn’t there every game, but it was there enough in the wins, and it was all there in Game 6. This was vintage Parker, nailing that midrange jumper, driving to the basket, and just running the team with a steady hand in a pressure situation. He finished 11-for-14 from the floor for 27 points, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover. More importantly, he got the team going in the first quarter when the energy of the Memphis crowd could have easily overwhelmed the team, and he hit three huge baskets late when the series was on the line. Can he bring it every night? No. Can he bring it enough to win a series? For now, yes.

The rest of the game was an aggregation of tiny contributions adding up to just enough. David Lee worked his ass off under the rim to win those cheap points that add up in games like this. LaMarcus Aldridge struggled to put the ball in the basket from close range, but battled to a team-high 12 rebounds. Aldridge is easily criticized when he struggles on offense, but rarely gets enough credit for his defense. It’s just assumed that he stinks at defense, and people don’t want to change their minds.

Manu Ginobili hit a huge and-1 3 pointer; Patty Mills had 10 off the bench; Danny Green played his usual great defense and hit a couple of clutch 3s; Dewayne Dedmon had 3 of the highest energy minutes in a closeout game you could hope for. Together, they pieced together the necessary contributions behind Leonard and Parker.

I can’t decide if Memphis was an unusually tough match-up for a 7-seed with their experience and toughness, or if the Spurs played a bit below their regular season level. Houston (who we’ll meet next round) dispatched a seemingly better team in Oklahoma City in the first round in 5, while San Antonio went to 6 against a lower seed. But Memphis might be a better constructed playoff team, while OKC is more easily exposed in the playoffs for the one-man army they are.

All to say, many people are going to be predicting Houston to beat the Spurs in the next round based on the first round results. While the Rockets certainly have a chance, I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. It’s not apples to apples.

We’ll get into that in our series preview, but suffice it to say, San Antonio is relieved to be getting out of the mud with a physically brutal team and Houston will have to figure out how to guard more than one player.

The second round series kicks off Monday night in San Antonio.

Go Spurs Go.

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