With four NBA titles on their resume so far, the San Antonio Spurs were looking for one more ring for their thumb while the Big Three were still around.
The next five years were highlighted by the team’s first-ever back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, with mixed results. The 2011-12 season saw the introduction of Kawhi Leonard after the Spurs acquired him from the Indiana Pacers on draft day.
The Spurs would gradually mold Leonard into the superstar he is today over the next few years as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker began to wind down their legendary careers.
Here are the best individual performances from 2011-2015, beginning with a rare instance of the Spurs starting Ginobili.
3rd Rd, Game 5 vs. Thunder– Manu Ginobili: 34 pts, 7 asts, 6 rebs
In the 2012 Western Conference Finals, the Spurs built a 2-0 lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder behind balanced offensive efforts. That changed when the Spurs had to travel to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Spurs had no answers for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in front of their home crowd, prompting them to make a starting lineup change for Game 5. With Danny Green giving the Spurs next to nothing in the series so far, they inserted Manu Ginobili along with the starters to give the team a boost.
The move worked, but not quite well enough, as the Spurs didn’t get much from anyone else but the Big Three. Ginobili led the way with 34 points, seven assists, and six rebounds on 11-for-21 shooting and 5-for-10 from three.
NBA Finals, Game 6 vs. Heat– Tim Duncan: 30 pts, 17 rebs
It’s the game that should never be spoken about among Spurs faithful, but Tim Duncan had a classic performance in the most heartbreaking game in team history.
Despite taking a 75-65 lead into the fourth quarter of Game 6 in the 2013 Finals, San Antonio had victory snatched from them in the waning seconds of the game thanks to Chris Bosh and Ray Allen.
Before that, though, Tim Duncan put up 30 points and 17 rebounds to pace the Spurs but wasn’t on the floor for the potential championship-winning rebound ultimately claimed by Bosh.
The Spurs fell 103-100 and ended up losing the series, but they would get their revenge the following season, defeating the Heat in five games for their fifth NBA crown.
2nd Rd, Game 1 vs. Blazers – Tony Parker: 33 pts, 9 asts
After coming out on top in a grueling seven-game series over the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs had a date with LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers in round two.
Game 1 saw a rare struggle from Tim Duncan, who put up just 12 points, but luckily he had plenty of support from the other guys. The head of the Spurs’ attack was Tony Parker, who shot 13-of-24 from the field and poured in 33 points to go with nine assists.
Marco Belinelli had one of his best playoff games as a Spur as well, chipping in 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting. San Antonio blew Portland out by 15 points or more in all four of their victories, then went on to win it all.
1st Rd, Game 7 vs. Clippers – Tim Duncan: 27 pts, 11 rebs
Looking for their third straight NBA Finals appearance, the San Antonio Spurs had an unfortunate draw in the first round of the 2015 playoffs.
The Spurs struggled with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the rest of the LA Clippers all series long, eventually coming up short in a Game 7 that went down to the buzzer.
Approaching 40 years old, Tim Duncan still showed why he’s the greatest power forward ever to play the game, putting up 27 points and pulling down 11 boards in a losing effort.
San Antonio had four more playoff appearances before narrowly missing them this season, which I’ll dive into next week to wrap up the series.