The San Antonio Spurs have done the impossible — garnered championship-caliber production from their older stars while expediting the growth of their up-and-coming players. The result? A 3-0 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals, which virtually guarantees another trip to the NBA Finals. However, letting up on the gas now might be the difference in a disappointing final run or a fifth title since the new millennium.
The Spurs were dominant in the early-to-mid 2000s, winning four titles in nine years without any failed trips to the NBA Finals. Now with Tim Duncan at the end of his magnificent career, San Antonio is hoping to win a ring for its thumb and ride Duncan off into the sunset as the greatest power forward in NBA history. That won’t be as easy as it sounds, though.
On first thought, the Spurs will have to get past the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals and both the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers look like tough tests. But the current series isn’t over yet and that’s what the Spurs can’t forget. Guys like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Duncan certainly won’t because they’ve been here before, but Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have not, so they might be looking past Memphis, which is where Game 4 of this series will take place on Monday night.
The Spurs would greatly benefit from a sweep because it would give them nine days’ rest before the start of the Finals and it would give them plenty of time to prepare for their final foes. In the 2005 NBA Playoffs, the Spurs finished off the Phoenix Suns in five games and had almost three weeks to prepare for the Detroit Pistons, who beat the Heat in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals that year. All that time allowed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to lay out a perfect plan for Larry Brown‘s Pistons and San Antonio came away with the title in a seven-game classic.
The Spurs won’t have that long this year, but a sweep of the Grizzlies would give them plenty of time to get ready for the titan that is the Heat or the young, intriguing, dangerous squad that is the Pacers. San Antonio could especially use the extra time to develop a plan to slow down the likes of LeBron James and Chris Bosh if Miami wins the series, which is similar to the situation for which Popovich had to plan back in 2005. If the Spurs win in four games and the Eastern Conference champ wins in six or seven, that could be the difference in one last hurrah that comes up short or an exclamation point on a dynasty.