Things are not supposed to keep getting better. That's not the way nature works. Rather, things have a lifespan. They tend to grow, then flourish briefly into their greatest potential, and then, inevitably decline. With care that decline may be slowed, but it is steady and irreversible.
My mind expects the same thing for the Spurs. Like our own Michael Erler, I expect to lose, because eventually we are all losers. So how am I to make sense of what I am seeing from the Spurs going on two years now? We tend to feel nostalgia for a past season because it taps into the truth of things, that our team was once great and now is in its decline. But I'll be damned if I can think of a better Spurs team, ever. And that's just not supposed to be happening.
Think about the Celtics for a minute. Bill Russell retired from the game in 1969, marking the end of the great Celtics dynasty. Ten years later, in 1979, the Celtics drafted Larry Bird, ushering in the great teams of the 80s. A decade separates those two eras of greatness. In between, the Celtics waxed and waned, winning a couple of titles in the 70s with some very good teams led by John Havlicek. Boston put together excellent teams for three decades, but of course with entirely different groups of players. That's the way things rise and fall, even for great franchises.
How did the Spurs beat the Thunder?
The media focused on the change in lineups in the later games of the Western Conference Finals, but a more subtle adjustment was more pivotal.
But what the Spurs are doing in 2014 really doesn't make any sense. I just watched Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili close out a Western Conference Finals and initiate a second straight appearance in the NBA Finals. Only a twisted ankle kept Tony Parker from making an impact in crunch time as well, but his twenty first half minutes were no less vital. I just watched maybe the single greatest Spurs playoff victory, led by the same big three who won a title in 2005. A team that has both Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan in the starting lineup is like fielding a team with both Larry Bird and Bill Russell, a generational bridge no reasonable person should ever expect to see. It's just weird. And it's an honor to witness it.
We see Kawhi make the defensive play of the year by snatching the ball one-handed like a grapefruit from out of Russell Westbrook's ferocious hands, and we rightly marvel at the freakish athleticism of it. But I submit that what Duncan and Manu did the other night is no less amazing and outlandish. Longevity may not shock us the way length and quickness do, but excellence over time is just as superhumanly rare. It can't be summed up as easily. You can't capture it in a gif. But it is an incredibly rare, nearly inhuman feat that only a handful of great ones have ever, will ever, achieve. It's one of the things that makes this team and this season so amazing