Wow. Did that really happen a few days ago?
The San Antonio Old Man Riverwalks just trounced the Mighty Miami Heat in five games? But the series was predicted to go six or seven games, with experts expecting the Heat to complete their three-peat. How did things go so wrong for Miami?
Because things had already gone so wrong for the Spurs.
There had been endless talk about Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. The Spurs and their fans had been unable to escape it, whether it be taunts from other fans, questions from reporters, or even their own memories. “No team has ever come closer to winning a championship” became the Spurs’ unofficial (and unwanted) motto this season.
Throughout the year the Spurs played their usual way – resting their veteran stars and not getting caught up in win streaks or home court advantage. The only real differences from the previous season were the swap of dead-eye bench scorers (from Gary Neal to Marco Belinelli) and the vast improvement of point guard Patty Mills, who went from an end-of-the-bench cheerleader to a key role as Tony Parker’s backup. The Spurs paced their way through the regular season, continuing their streak of consecutive seasons with 50 or more wins on their way to the NBA’s best record.
Once the playoffs started, however, San Antonio’s attitude seemed to change. There was an edge to their game that hadn’t been seen in years. Their calm and collected demeanor became more emotional. Thanks to Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks, the change didn’t become apparent until Game 7 of the first round. After that it was evident in how they dispatched the Portland Trailblazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, two teams that always seemed to give the Spurs trouble.
Finally, they got the rematch with Miami that they desired. This was evident as Tim Duncan softly predicted the Spurs would get it done this time around, something neither he nor the Spurs were known for doing. For San Antonio, it was almost the equivalent of Joe Namath guaranteeing a Super Bowl.
Throughout the series the Spurs showed more emotion than they had throughout the entire regular season. Every key play was followed by an excited fist pump or victorious yell. The players rode these emotions to the most lopsided margin of victory in NBA Finals history, easily dispatching the defending champs in five games.
San Antonio’s season can be visually summed up in one play. With just under three minutes left in the first half of Game 5, Manu Ginobili dribbled down the court, surveying the situation. The Spurs were in the middle of a run that had given them their first lead of the game and all the momentum was on their side. Historically, one would have expected the Spurs to get into one of their sets and work the ball around until they were able to get off a good shot. But as Ginobili approached the three-point line, he made a determined move towards the rim, blowing by multiple Heat defenders before viciously slamming it down on Chris Bosh.
As the building erupted and his teammates went crazy, Ginobili ran past Duncan and gave him a slap on the chest, which Duncan returned with an aggressive pat on the head. This was not a typical Spurs play or celebration. These reserved veterans were letting out a year’s worth of frustration not only for themselves, but for their teammates and fans. As they ran back down the court, a thought must have passed through many viewers’ minds on these new-look Spurs.
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