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Capitulation

2017 Western Conference Finals
San Antonio 100, Golden State 136
Warriors lead series 2-0

For the first time in a long time, I did not want to watch a Spurs game.

I almost never watch the games live for a variety of reasons. So for the most part, I know the end result before I witness the opening tip. I’m lucky that I have more wins to look forward to than losses as a Spurs fan; but even with most losses, there’s something worth watching, a performance to marvel at, an end-of-bench player to get excited about, a hint of some long-term master plan from Pop.

Not Tuesday night, though. There was nothing. No there there. No fight. No hope. Just surrender.

Of course, a lot of us knew this before the game. After everything that happened in game one and its aftermath, game two’s result felt predetermined. Did anyone honestly believe the Spurs had a chance to win without Kawhi Leonard?

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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.


 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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