Chris Paul had to learn a hard playoff lesson from the San Antonio Spurs
It’s hard to settle on one word that best describes the San Antonio Spurs teams of the early 2000s. ‘Dominant’ works, so does ‘reliable.’ They were both dominant and reliable, but they were also calm, cool, and collected even as they reached the highest of highs. They were unflappable.
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker could be expressive at times but as a team, the Spurs drew their aura from their leader, Tim Duncan. People might have mistaken Duncan’s quiet nature for a lack of a killer instinct but make no mistake, the Big Fundamental was as much of an alpha dog as you’ll find in the NBA. He was going to destroy you without saying a word, that almost makes the defeated more humbling in a way.
Plenty of players, writers, and fans have counted the Spurs out at one point or another. It could be thinking they were going to lose a game, a series, or that their dynasty was going to finally crumble. But time after time the Spurs found a way to keep their heads and find a way to recover from a near defeat.
San Antonio Spurs taught Chris Paul a hard lesson in 2008 playoffs
While speaking to Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles on the Knuckleheads podcast, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul opened up about a hard lesson that he had to learn from the San Antonio Spurs during his first trip to the playoffs.
Paul was riding high, believing he was about to capture his first MVP trophy. He took that energy into the playoffs and made the mistake of thinking he and his teammates had taken down the mighty Spurs. Turns out it’s not that easy.
As Paul tells the story, he and the Hornets were on their way to winning Game 2 when he looked over at the bench and was surprised by what he saw.
“Game 2 we beat them, and when you’re young like that you’re swaged out but when I looked over at their bench they’d be like “okay, cool.” Went back to San Antonio, thought we could’ve won that one (Game 3). Same with Game 4. It helped me realize that it doesn’t matter how much you win or lose by, its just one game.”
The teams would return to New Orleans for Game 5 where the Spurs would suffer another tough 101-79 defeat to go down 3-2 in the series. But, as they have so many times, San Antonio was able to recover and win the final two games to close out an absolute nail biter of a series.
Paul admitted that when he lost Game 7 to the Spurs he was shocked, calling it one of his toughest losses. But he took a valuable lesson away from the loss. The playoffs are a different beast, you can’t let one game impact your energy too much. Kobe Bryant said it best when he was asked by a reporter why he wasn’t smiling after going up 2-0 in the 2009 Finals, “what’s there to be happy about? Jobs not finished.”
They might not make the playoffs this year but the lessons that Spurs greats have helped other NBA stars learn will still have an impact on who walks away with the title this year.