After two blowout wins at home to take a 2-0 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed as if the San Antonio Spurs were going to sweep the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year. Then came the struggles, but after a Game 6 win on the road, the Spurs have a new confidence that, along with home court advantage, should give them the edge in this year’s NBA Finals rematch with the Miami Heat.
The Spurs had lost nine straight games in Oklahoma City, including Games 3 and 4 of the Conference Finals, before finally putting the Thunder away in Game 6 on Saturday night.
Those last two losses in OKC were both blowouts before the reserves trimmed the 20-plus-point leads to single digits late. San Antonio was off its game in both contests, looking lost compared to its dominance in the first two meetings of the series.
But that controversy was good for a Spurs team that has a tradition of putting things on cruise control during the regular season and even early in the playoffs on occasion. After finally finding its rhythm late in Game 5, San Antonio marched onto another resounding victory before a thrilling overtime clincher in Game 6.
That brings us back to the NBA Finals where the two-time defending champs await the rematch that thrilled so many fans a year ago.
San Antonio held its fifth NBA title in the palm of its hand late in Game 6 last June before Ray Allen snatched it away, leaving the Spurs dynasty in disbelief. The following Game 7 — also in Miami — was just too much for the tired veterans and their inexperienced young role players.
Now with the Finals format back at 2-2-1-1-1 and four of a possible seven games in San Antonio, things are different.
The Spurs found their game again on Saturday, especially after getting off to an 0-for-8 start from beyond the arc. They moved the ball incredibly well on offense, which is what we’re accustomed to seeing from them, and they were stifling on defense, forcing turnovers on seemingly every other possession.
This Spurs team has something last year’s didn’t: a chip on its shoulder and a new confidence that stems from overcoming controversy in the face of tragedy. With Tim Duncan entering what will likely be the last series of his career (at 38, he’s in the final year of his contract) and youngsters like Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green all returning to the Finals with some experience they didn’t have in 2013, San Antonio is primed for one last hurrah…again.