The San Antonio Spurs have reached consecutive NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
A little surprising, right?
1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2013 and now 2014.
Spurs: will face Heat in NBA Finals for 2nd straight season, 1st NBA Finals rematch since Bulls vs Jazz in 1997 and 1998
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 1, 2014
This is the complete Finals schedule, via NBA.com:
Game 1 – Thu, June 5, Miami at San Antonio, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 – Sun, June 8, Miami at San Antonio, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 3 – Tue, June 10, San Antonio at Miami, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 4 – Thu, June 12, San Antonio at Miami, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 5 * Sun, June 15, Miami at San Antonio, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 6 * Tue, June 17, San Antonio at Miami, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 7 * Fri, June 20, Miami at San Antonio, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
*If necessary ALL TIMES EASTERN SUBJECT TO CHANGE
I would also like to point out that, in his last two articles, Featured Columnist Ethan Cohen stressed how the Spurs needed to play Boris Diaw more. Thanks to Diaw’s play, the Spurs are not only back in the NBA Finals, but they didn’t even have to waste their energy on a Game 7 to get there.
But isn’t this the exact same roster that the Miami Heat beat in last year’s NBA Finals?
Pretty much, yeah.
But the team is different, the system is different; ESPN’s J.A. Adande puts it best:
“It’s unbelievable to regain that focus after that devastating loss that we had last year,” Duncan told TNT’s David Aldridge in an on-court interview. “But we’re back here. We’re excited about it. We’ve got four more to win. We’ll do it this time. We’re happy it’s the Heat again. We’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still.”
It was an uncharacteristically bold proclamation by Duncan, but you have to realize that the Spurs aren’t the same cast of characters as in the past.
It’s hard to fathom a franchise as accomplished as the Spurs having a breakthrough, but Saturday represented one. It was their first-ever playoff victory in Oklahoma City, and their first victory of any kind here in 10 tries. And it also represented the team’s first back-to-back trip to the NBA Finals.
So, yes, these Spurs are not the same old Spurs. They long ago stopped relying on Duncan all the time, and now they’ve even shown they’re not dependent on Parker, their most important player the past few seasons. They won’t have the best player on the court in the Finals — that distinction belongs to LeBron James — but they got a dry run in beating the league’s MVP in Durant.
It’s the way the Spurs have been doing things for so long. Only now there are added elements: pain and motivation.
Take Boris Diaw, who played 36 minutes in Game 6 because he emerged as the Spurs’ best threat against the interior defensive presence of the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka and wound up scoring a team-high 26 points. Diaw could hit 3-pointers (he made 3 of 6 Saturday) or dribble at Ibaka and then find an open teammate.
“I was really disappointed last year in the Finals when we lost,” Diaw said. “I really felt that I could have helped the team more. … When I played basketball the only thing I didn’t want was to have regrets, I don’t want to say, ‘I didn’t do that, I didn’t play as hard as I could.’
“I felt I could have done more [last year], by being more aggressive, by maybe showing more all season that I could be efficient in some areas, in scoring and stuff like that, so I would have the opportunity to do that and also help the team.”
Popovich began training camp by showing the team video of last year’s Game 6. Since then, “It’s not something I think we actively talk about,” Bonner said. “But it’s definitely an experience that you learn from and sticks with you and sticks in the back of your mind, your subconscious, and drives you.”
It’s driven them back to the Finals, back to the Heat. Another difference: The Spurs have home-court advantage again. But because of the switch to the 2-2-1-1-1 format, if there’s a Game 6, it will also be played in Miami.
What’s changed since the last Game 6 that helped the Spurs win Saturday’s Game 6 and maybe the next one as well?
“We fixed the little mistakes,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “The minor things in the playoffs are what makes the difference. Rebounds, steals, a pass, a turnover … the extra pass. As little as it seems, those are the plays that change the game in the playoffs.” That’s what the Spurs took from 2013’s Game 6. That’s what they applied to the latest Game 6.
Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs have recognized that when playing the Miami Heat, they are never going to have the best player on the court as long as LeBron James is in action; And, let’s be honest, usually, the team with the best player wins. Who was better on the court when Kobe was winning rings a few years ago? Or Duncan back in the day, as well as Shaq, and down the line.
So, the Spurs created a better system.
In a league where the stars shine bright and superstars shine brighter, the Spurs went in the opposite direction and created a system where you can input a Danny Green or Cory Joseph to play solid minutes instead of relying on your stars to play heavy minutes.
No Spur played more than 30 minutes a game, including Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Leonard; while LeBron has logged over 37 a night for the last three years. The King may be in his prime, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t human.
Newly hired Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, a member of the Chicago Bulls during their second three-peat, has said that if Michael Jordan didn’t retire from the game after their third championship, he doesn’t know if they would have won a fourth in a row because of that progressive fatigue.
The Heat haven’t already won three rings in a row, but they did reach the NBA Finals in 2011, before winning in 2012 and 2013, so they’ve played just as many games as a three-peat championship team would.
They’ll certainly get some much-needed rest, as well as the Spurs, until Game 1, which tips off Thursday, June 5th at 9 PM ET.