It's time. All the regular season blogging and opining is in the past. It's playoff time. Few national analysts other than John Hollinger picked the Spurs pre-season to win the Western Conference Finals, so it could be fun to watch the Good Guys prove everybody else wrong. As the inspirational Christmas anthem proclaims, "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail." Gotta be.
Last season, our boys rolled into the playoffs on a historic winning streak, only to run out of gas in the WCF against the juggernaut of Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Iblocka, and Scotty Brooks. Now, the Spurs stumble into the postseason amid losses, injury recoveries, and the unsettling disappearance of Cap'n Jack (I can no longer type "Thanks, Cap'n" in Game Threads after he nails a long triple, which was soothing for me). Our first test? The hated Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celebrities-Who-Used-To-Be-Stern's-Darlings-Before-SouthBeach-Made-Them-Old-News struggled mightily this season. Mike Brown was the first fall guy, and probably rightfully so. But things didn't exactly take off under D'Antoni either. Could it be that throwing a gaggle of aging superstars together isn't always a recipe for instant golden basketballs? Why exactly did everyone think it would be? I hate to remind folks, but I never joined the Laker bandwagon. But this isn't a Round One Spurs-Lakers Preview, so I shan't spend too much time rehashing LA's woes. Suffice it to say, I wasn't worried until Kobe went down.
What!!! Did I just say I'm worried BECAUSE Kobe's out? Yeah. I know the Lakers aren't likely to challenge for the championship this postseason, but I believe they're a more balanced team without Bryant. With the offense running through Dwight Howard, they're basically Orlando of old, but with some better components and a winning pedigree. I don't think they will necessarily beat the Spurs, but I'm actually more concerned now with Kobe gone. SA matches up decently with them (I'll have a post up soon playing the roster v. roster matchup game like I did with the Rockets awhile back), but in the playoffs, anything can happen, and we would be remiss to call this a pending sweep, or even a sure advance.
If our lads survive the Lakers, they face a stiff test from either a deep and well-rounded Nuggets squad or Steph Curry and the rest of the explosive and improving Warriors. Neither is a championship contender, but either could knock a contender out of the dance. For once, however, Los Spurs actually seem to have drawn the easier path to the Conference Finals. The Thunder must oust the Rockets in Round One, and we can bet the indomitable James Harden will be gunning for his old team. Then OKC has to deal with the survivor of the Clippers/Grizz showdown. Either team will be smelling a chance at the Heat and will be a very tough out. If things play out as they should, the 2013 WCF is a rematch of 2012. I wouldn't be shocked to see a shake-up though.
Then comes the Heat. Oh boy. That is, unless someone on the planet truly believes the Knicks or anyone else can do anything about it. Speak up, please.
All that to say, gather up! The Silver and Black need their faithful. Because we believe. We believe until the final buzzer sounds. It's one nation now. Past doubts and disagreements are shed. We fully recognize the possibility that the very men we've supported all year could stand as champions at season's end. So we rally behind our team of ambassadors of all that is good about sport, the character that defies the modern model. And we bid them go. Go right on, go straight forward, defying time and popular opinion...just keep going, Spurs.
Go, Spurs. Go.