I'm not a fan of the Miami Heat, but that goes back long before the "super friends" decided to get together with a plan to dominate the NBA. I still remember the wars all those years ago with my Knicks. Back in the day those two teams, as well as their fan bases, hated one another and with good reason. I enjoy watching that franchise lose and especially enjoy it when they get blown out.
I enjoyed watching the Spurs destroy the Heat on Friday night -- really -- and I thank the Spurs for bringing a smile to my face after a very long night of work. I went to sleep and woke up to this lovely email from a very articulate "fan."
You really are stupid. All this time claiming to know so much about the NBA and how the Spurs can't beat a good team must make you feel real bright about now doesn't it big mouth?
I'm feeling the love, aren't you? For the record, I dedicated 15 minutes of my show last week with the help of Michael Erler debunking that myth that the Spurs couldn't beat good teams. What I said was that they haven't beat the best teams in the NBA and until that time they hadn't.
I don't pretend to have a local perspective of the San Antonio Spurs nor have I ever claimed to; I have a national perspective and I'm honest about it. I've been hinting about the lack of a "signature win" for quite some time. I didn't feel they were legit, in terms of Championship talk, because the majority of their winning record was dominating weaker teams. I felt they needed to defeat an Indiana, Miami or the Thunder to be honestly considered as a legitimate NBA Title contender. And I wasn't alone in that opinion.
I started getting tired of the "So what? We're in the playoffs" yap being thrown around in some circles as a way of dismissing Spurs critics because of their average record against winning teams. Who cares about the playoffs if you haven't proven you can beat any of them especially when you get blown out by the Phoenix Suns? It didn't make sense to me then and it doesn't make sense to me now.
I don't watch every Spurs game. It isn't because I don't want to -- I just don't have the time. I was able to watch the game with the Cavs and after recording Friday's show with J.R. I watched the replay of the Heat game. I was impressed with the way they handled the Cavs, but again that was just another weaker team the Spurs beat up on. I was looking forward to this Heat game and couldn't wait to see just how their finally-healthy squad would handle the test of the two-time defending champion Heat.
Thursday night's blowout over the Heat was a beautiful thing to behold, but was it really a "signature win"?
This was the same Spurs team I saw play Cleveland. They didn't allow the Cavs defense a moment to catch their breath and treated Miami the same way. The Spurs dominated the offensive end of things with such precision it was as if the Heat were wearing "Los Caballeros" pajamas rather than the "El Heat" ones they donned at the AT&T Center Thursday night.
I was particularly impressed with the defense Kawhi Leonard played on LeBron James. James can make all the excuses he likes about the NBA's choice of wardrobe, but Leonard was the one affecting his shot. I think he'll be seeing the #2 in his sleep. On those rare occasions when he did beat Leonard to the cup he had Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to deal with. It didn't work out well for him on Thursday. (Cue this video from last year's Finals.)
On separate nights, both Austin Carr and Greg Anthony made the observation that it doesn't matter what rotation Gregg Popovich employs, they all play the same way. The last two nights it's honestly been difficult to tell the difference between when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are on the floor and when Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw are out there. That is a very good sign of potentially great things to come.
I think most of us on the outside looking in overlooked the amount of injuries the Spurs have dealt with this season. No offense to Belinelli, Diaw or Mills, but they ain't exactly Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, are they? Those guys were signed to be role players and, let's be honest here, many were not even expecting Mills to get off the bench. Those three were forced to play major roles and are now a major part of this basketball team and their amazing record.
This Spurs team can go eight deep for sure and, depending on the situation, can go 9-10 deep. No matter who's on the floor, they suck the life out of defenses with amazing unselfishness, quickness, and precision that isn't seen very often. Throw in their relatively unheralded team defense and this is a team that can give anyone a serious go on any given night. Only the elite teams like Miami, Oklahoma City and Indiana can say the same.
I don't mean to be a party pooper, but beginning March 31st, the Spurs have games in the same week with Indiana, Golden State, Oklahoma City and Memphis. In my humble opinion it will be those contests and particularly the ones with Indiana and the Thunder where we will get a real indication of what this Spurs team is really all about in terms of championship contention.
This week the Spurs have had us at hello but it will take more than just a home blowout over the Heat to keep the Spurs in the national conversation about the NBA Championship . I suppose Thursday's win could be seen as the "signature win" the National Media was clamoring for, but for me the Spurs started to put pen to paper against Cleveland, continued against the Heat and won't be done with their signature until we see how this fully recuperated squad competes against the likes of Indiana and the Thunder.
Enjoy the well-deserved victory, Spurs fans. The signature is just beginning and I'm looking forward to how it looks when they complete it.