There are three distinct bad playoff moments in the Tim Duncan-era.
For the sake of Spurs fans worldwide, I won’t divulge into the details behind these wounds, but everyone knows exactly what three moments are being referenced.
Well, one can be talked about.
Specifically, it can be talked about because of last night’s events.
As the final buzzer went off, the San Antonio Spurs won their first game in Oklahoma City in ten attempts, 112-107. Out of all ten attempts, this was no doubt one of the most important.
The San Antonio Spurs are returning to the NBA Finals. It’s quite the familiar scene for Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. After all, it is their sixth appearance as a duo, matching the totals of legendary duo Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson. That’s why the return to basketball’s biggest stage makes last year’s heartbreak a little more manageable.
Ray Allen single-handedly crushed the hopes of a fifth title, and an undefeated Finals record, in Game Six. LeBron James led the charge to seal Game Seven and a Larry O’Brien trophy for the Miami Heat.
The Spurs were devastated. You could see it in their eyes. You can hear it when they talked.
Duncan was quoted as saying “Probably for me, Game 7 is always going to haunt me.”
Popovich told the Express-News, “I think about Game 6 every day. Without exception. I think about every play. I can see LeBron’s first shot, and the rebound, and the second…”
Popovich has had quite the coaching resume. As the longest tenured coach in all four major sports, Pop has four NBA championships and three Coach of the Year awards. His achievements have been rivaled by very few.
His most impressive achievement? His coaching job this season.
Last season’s ending was a nightmare that you couldn’t wake up from. Somehow, someway, Pop worked his coaching magic and the Spurs roared out to a 13-1 start. It was like last season never happened.
It was like Ray Allen didn’t make that shot.
The Spurs cruised to a 62-20 record, and a number one seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. With some key injuries out West (Bogut, Ibaka) and the only real threat in the East to the Heat (Indiana) struggling, there was sense around the country that the Heat and the Spurs would meet again in the NBA Finals.
Sure enough, after one of the best playoffs the sport of basketball has ever seen, here we are.
Heat. Spurs. The rematch. Something Duncan claims they longed for.
“We’re happy it’s the Heat again. We’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still.”
In NBA history, only four of the 11 previous back-to-back matchups have resulted in a different team escaping victorious. Teams that one two in a row and then returned for a third (or eight if you’re Boston)? Five claimed that third title. Only the 1989 Los Angeles Lakers missed out.
As Kawhi Leonard told Spurs.com, “We can’t talk about the past. It’s the future right now.”
It’s time to buck those trends. They have defied father time. They have overcome countless heartbreaks. It’s time to win in an even year. It’s time to capture the prestigious fifth title.
It’s redemption time San Antonio.