Friday, May 17, 2013

Spurs - Warriors Game Six: So Sorry To Be Right

Tonight in Oakland, the Spurs played a spectacular road playoff game. They weathered every run, with coach Gregg Popovich using his timeouts and personnel perfectly. With power forward and Franchise icon Tim Duncan having a weak fourth quarter, the Spurs coach just went small and got killer three pointers to keep the lead, and, well, that was that. San Antonio won despite Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili not being able to make shots, because the rest of the cast did, and their defense was finally able to stop the quality looks at the rim without giving up open looks from the three point arc.

All credit to them, thanks for making my pick of them to win in it a winner (10-1 so far) and I suspect they're going to give the Grizzlies more of a series than the Dubs would have -- the nature of the NBA playoffs is that we are certain the best team advances, in that it is an unforgiving crucible -- but they won't be as fun to watch, especially if their veterans don't start picking up their energy late in games. Memphis has spent the last two series turning Chris Paul and Kevin Durant into frail husks of themselves; it's hard to see how they don't do the same thing to the elder Spurs. But there's plenty of time to discuss that later. I want to stay on the Dubs for now.

Their run was, as you might have gathered from the coverage here for the past month, so much fun to watch... but fun to watch and hoisting a trophy are mutually exclusive sets in hoop, at least to my eyes. (Some will argue that the Jordan Bulls were the aesthetic and performance ideal, but I preferred the Gary Peyton / Shawn Kemp Sonics, and the Charles Barkley Suns, for ball movement and team play on offense. But I digress.) Depending on the night, Curry and Klay Thompson made me laugh out loud with the purity of their jumpers, and the rest of the roster kept coming up with heroics and goofiness (have you ever seen a more excitable bench?) in equal measure. They could run up big leads, cough them up at the close, then come back in overtime as if nothing happened. They could blow a game in breathtaking fashion, and play the next night as if the last game never happened. Few teams reach the level of unforgettable, especially when they don't escape the second round, but that's what this team was.

Now for the bad news. This really may be as good as it gets.

No one is going to say this, of course. When the youngest team in the NBA goes a round deeper than the other two teams in their division, everything should be skittles and beer moving forward. But in the history of the Association, great young teams fail to develop all the time, especially when a sizable amount of their improvement seems to come from a coach with a mercurial minutes strategy, and a best player with injury issues. And so much of the talent here seems to be one-way only (defense from the big men, offense from the guards) as to make future minutes a real challenge. And I haven't even gotten into the misery of keeping all of this talent in the future (someone's going to want to pay Thompson an irresponsible amount), or the frequently wounded on the floor.

But for now, they can go hit the golf course and fishing holes with a clear conscience, and the knowledge that they are going to be everyone's sexy pick to win the Pacific next year, and host a playoff series. And if Chris Paul and Dwight Howard decide to leave the state, they might be the only team in California to have a playoff team in 2014.

Or they could snap back to their historical doom and ineptitude. And if I had to bet...

Update: Just to prove how adorable this team was, check out what they do *after* the season's over. (Stay on the floor, give away their gear, say thanks. Classy.)

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