Tag: San Antonio Oklahoma City

Tim Duncan

San Antonio Spurs: Time is not on their side. No it isn’t.


For a stretch of 20 games, 10 of those in the playoffs, no team has played a more pure, more beautiful brand of basketball in recent years than San Antonio.

It was Hall of Fame talent being selfless — Tony Parker would get in the lane and score or kick to the corner three, Tim Duncan would take whatever the defense gave him, a 18-foot jumper or a jump hook over the left shoulder in the post. Manu Ginobili carved teams up, guys filled their roles, the ball moved in a way that would make Norman Dale from Hoosiers proud.

But in the Western Conference finals, youth was served.

The Spurs didn’t lose because they were old. But the Thunder won because they started playing well enough as a team and because they used they youth and athleticism cut off Parker’s penetration and blow up that beautiful Spurs offense. And there was nothing Gregg Popovich or anyone could do about it.

It’s hard because this year felt like the Spurs last run at it. It felt like the true end of the era.

They may bring everyone back, but that will not be enough anymore. Health alone will not be enough. The Spurs needed everything to go just right to have a shot this season — and they got it. The breaks went their way. Last year it was clear how much they missed Ginobili, this year he was there. Parker was healthy and playing maybe the best ball of his career. Duncan was moving like it was 10 years ago. Young role players like Kawhi Leonard stepped up. Stephen Jackson was nailing threes.

And it wasn’t enough. The obstacle was too big — OKC was making San Antonio work hard for good looks while seemingly getting the shots they wanted at will off things like a beautiful pin-down play.

And the Thunder are not going anywhere for years. Plus there’s the up-and-coming Clippers and other rising young teams in the West.

These Spurs will not admit this was their last best shot, but they did admit after starting this series up 2-0 they could taste ring No. 5. They got close.

But it was not enough. And it may be as close as they ever get again. Tim Duncan has said if he returns it will only be for a couple years (as a Spur, nowhere else). It’s hard to see their core being this healthy, this rested and this good again after the grind of an 82-game season.

The Spurs gave us something special to watch this postseason. They were magical. And hopefully that is how we remember them.

Because time is not on their side if they want to do this again.

Video: Durant gets assist on dagger, then hugs his mother

Kevin Durant, Wanda Pratt

You can argue that Derek Fisher’s three or some other particular shot was the dagger, but the one shot that forever put this game out of reach for the Thunder was Kendrick Perkins dunk when he rolled to the basket, nobody noticed or cared and Kevin Durant hit him with the pass.

Then first thing during the celebration Durant did the most Durant thing ever — he hugged his mother.

For all the people who complain about the egos and spoiled stars of the NBA, you had better flat-out love Kevin Durant. He’s just a good dude. Loves his mom. Likes playing in a small market in Middle America. Doesn’t cuss or put out bad mix tapes. He just balls. Now he is going to do that on the NBA’s biggest stage.

As for Fisher, guy can still knock down the big shot.

Thunder-Spurs Game 6: Oklahoma City proves it’s ready, advances to finals

Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs' Ginobili and Parker during the second half of Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals in Oklahoma City

Since the 1999 season, only three teams have represented the Western Conference in the NBA finals — the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs.

In the first round of the 2012 playoffs, the Thunder crushed Dallas. In the second round they showed they were well ahead of the Lakers.

And on Wednesday night they proved they are ready to be champions. They showed they are the worthy continuation of that legacy.

The Thunder came back from 18 down, 15 at the half against a veteran and feisty Spurs team to win 107-99 and take the series 4-2. After the Spurs won 20 games in a row the Thunder picked up their play at both ends — their defense cut off dribble penetration and their offensive ball movement improved — and OKC swept the Spurs out of the playoffs in four straight. There was nothing Gregg Popovich or the Spurs could do about it — the Thunder were the better team.

The NBA finals will begin Tuesday in Oklahoma City (they had a better record than either team left in the Eastern Conference).

San Antonio did not go easily or quietly — they made adjustments to free up Tony Parker and get him penetrating again and the Spurs raced out to an early lead. Parker initiated his offense earlier and when he did wait for the high pick the player (Tim Duncan, usually) came from farther away off the baseline to make the Thunder bigs cover more ground. It worked. Parker had 17 points in the first quarter alone (he finished with 29) and the Spurs led by 18 at one point in the first quarter and 15 at the half.

We tend to think of these Spurs as young — Kevin Durant is just 23 and their core is all under 25 — but they have been through the playoff wars. And they used that youth and veteran skill to change the second half. Once again the long arms and fast legs of the Thunder seemed to be in the way of every Spurs player.

“We can’t have their legs, we can’t have their energy,” the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili said after the game in a televised press conference. “I can’t jump as high.”

The Thunder have grown up — they grew up in this series as their ball movement improved game to game. They withstood the Spurs storm in Game 5 and in this game you knew a second half run was coming.

Oklahoma City did it with defense — they are long and athletic and disrupt shots and passing lanes. They close out fast. They took away the Spurs easy looks. The Spurs shot 32 percent in the third and were outscored 14, they shot 33 percent in the third and were outscored by nine.

Durant led the charge with 14 of his 34 in the third quarter when the Spurs lead disappeared. But it was every Thunder player — Westbrook slashing through the lane, James Harden with a key wing three, Derek Fisher doing what he does in big games with a three from the corner. It was a team win.

Right now, the Thunder are playing better than either team out of the East. They have the athleticism to match the Heat, and Boston’s offense has not had to deal with this kind of length and athleticism. OKC has an amazing offense, a good defense, great young talent…

And they are not wide-eyed kids. They have paid their dues the past three years, learning how win, how to get here.

Right now the Thunder are poised to win the NBA title. It’s not that simple, but it’s theirs for the taking.

Video: Russell Westbrook’s monster first half dunk

Russell Westbrook
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San Antonio owned the first half of Game 6 in Oklahoma City — except for this play.

Nobody on the Spurs stopped the ball and so Westbrook went all the way in and played Superman. Monster dunk.

Thunder-Spurs Game 6: Spurs know what to do, but it may not matter

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five

It’s not that the Spurs don’t know what they have to do to win — this is a smart, veteran team with the best coach in the land. Intellectually, they know what they need to do.

But there comes a point where athleticism trumps that plan, and for three games in a row now the Thunder have had that advantage. It’s not that simple — the Thunder also have executed well enough, got their role players to step up and used the long arms of Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka to disrupt what the Spurs are doing. But the more athletic team is winning this series because of their advantage.

San Antonio will figure out how to deal with it Wednesday night, on the road, or they will be golfing on Thursday. Well, except for Gregg Popovich, he’ll go back to drinking fine wine.

Popovich has to come up with a scheme — and the Spurs have to execute — a game plan that gets Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili into the paint breaking down the Thunder defense. Ever since the Thunder started trapping the ball handler off the pick in Game 3 (and not letting them reuse that pick) the Spurs have struggled to score efficiently enough to win. San Antonio hasn’t made the Thunder pay with the pick-and-pop, their ball movement has been stagnated, and then it becomes a matter of isolations.

Part of that is Duncan himself — he cannot hesitate to shoot on the pick-and-pop. Same is true for the Spurs role players, who seem to hesitate before taking their jumpers against the Thunder, and that give’s OKC’s long athletes time to recover.

And with all that the Spurs still score. They put 103 points (104 points per 100 possessions pace) in Game 5. That would be the seventh best in the NBA last season, but is 4.5 points per 100 worse than what they did in the regular season.

The Spurs have to score and score big because they cannot stop the Thunder. San Antonio can play better defense on the pick-and-roll, they can slow the Thunder, but they have nobody who can stop Kevin Durant, they are not able to shut off Russell Westbrook. With Ibaka knocking down midrange jumpers and James Harden doing his thing the Spurs are not going to clamp down on the Thunder like they did the Clippers.

If San Antonio is going to push this to a Game 7 they will do it with their offense.

I just don’t know if they can because we’ve seen such growth from the Thunder these playoffs. They make their mistakes, but their ball movement is better, their effort level consistently higher — they are playing like we expect a veteran contender to do. They have been amazing.

And at home, in front of that crowd, they will be incredibly difficult to beat.