Following a devastating loss in the Western Conference Finals after leading the series 2-0, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich addressed the media in an attempt to define what went wrong:
”We faced a team that beat us fair and square. We reached our limit,” Popovich said.
Pop, famous for his…shall we say, brevity…has dropped another gem on us. With questions abounding on the future of this team and it’s star Tim Duncan, who is without a contract for next season, one wonders what underlies a comment like “we reached our limit.” Does Pop see major roster changes coming? Why did the Spurs reach their limit?
With so much post-game talk of the impact of the officiating down the stretch, it is just as likely that Pop was dispelling any notion that the officials determined the outcome of the game. And I agree. They did not.
Officials may affect margins, but they do not affect outcomes. The Spurs’ third quarter collapse had nothing to do with the officiating. Had the Spurs been able to make anything in the third quarter, they would have held the lead. Had they not begun the fourth quarter with 4 turnovers, they could have retaken the lead. There’s no question that there were some horrible calls that took points off of the board in the fourth quarter, and that made a late charge more difficult. But this game was decided in the third quarter when the Spurs handed all of the momentum to the Thunder right out of the halftime locker room.
In many ways, Pop’s response says everything you need to know.
Did the Spurs reach their limit? I don’t know. This same team dominated the Thunder over their previous ten matchups. There’s no question they had the talent and the ability to beat them again. But something was different with this team over the last four games. In Game Six, the Spurs appeared to simply ran out of gas in that second half. Whether it was age, fatigue, adjustments by the Thunder or something else I don’t know but they hit a wall that they could not climb. The Thunder overcame a 15 point halftime deficit, earning the right to play in the NBA Finals. They earned it and they deserve it.