The first sports article I ever wrote was almost a year ago. J.R. Wilco sent out an open call for season ticket holders who would be willing to write rehashes, and those interested need only submit a FanPost to enter. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what to write. I tend to write dramatically and cinematically... I am a screenwriter after all. Concision, cogent theses and a working knowledge of how to use basketball analysis in a long-form sports piece were things I didn't -- probably still don't -- have. In short, I sat on my hands for a number of hours thinking "What on Earth am I going to say?"
In the end I settled on this an idea: despite Game 6, despite 0.4, despite fouling Dirk, despite Memphis 2011, despite OKC 2012, being a Spurs fan was very much an exercise in being spoiled. The Spurs fanbase has been treated to such mind-boggling season of success, nearly uninterrupted since 1990. And any mention of the pain that the above losses bring to the surface should be pushed back down knowing that Steve Nash, one of the greatest point guards of all-time, will in all likelihood exit the NBA without a championship.
Life has a way of conditioning a person to believe that their reality is the only reality. Were this true, it would be completely valid to make the argument that the Spurs are a troubled fan base. Context is important, and too often we lose sight of that context when assuming the tunnel vision the Spurs organization has drilled into this franchise over the past quarter century.
I don't know what's going to happen, you guys. I'm going to cite a particularly frightening statistic down in the numbers section, but the fact remains the Spurs are one win away from summiting the mountain for the fifth time in fifteen years. Maybe they'll get there. Maybe they'll add another to the relatively tiny laundry list of tragedies that have befallen the Spurs franchise.
Maybe. If what's ahead is all that matters to you, then maybe skip to the fun stuff down below. Me, I want some context for whatever this Finals ends up being in the history books.
I was at Game 3 of the 2013 Finals. It was my birthday that day and Danny Green with Gary Neal went out and got me one of the better, more inexplicably awesome gifts I could've received. Days after being out-clutched by a Miami team at home, and feeling as though Game 1 was a bit of an outlier -- that Miami was the better team -- Game 3 was a godsend. I've harped a lot on the Spurs shooters to keep shooting. It's an unchallenged fact that the only way a shooter breaks from a slump is by continually shooting. Green and Neal understood this, and it lead to an all-out drubbing of the Heat.
Looking back on that game still gives me chills. Watching Danny Green as he looked to me to be unable to understand exactly what was going on when the ball left his hands. It ended up being an outlier, but such outliers are the special moments you remember from a year in sport.
Which is why the last two contests in Miami, barring the invention of a zombie outbreak, will probably go down as the most beautiful two games of basketball I've ever seen played by a team on this high a stage. These two games have been so dominant, so utterly pristine that the NBA blogosphere has started posting quotes from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. And who could blame them? Both Pop and Kubrick are/were notorious grumps, and both probably measure above a 200 on their IQ. I suppose some types of greatness just transcend their field.
Watching each pass compound upon the other. Watching Spur players adapt to changing situations during the game, working through Miami's helpless defense. Watching as yet another three point shooter is seen from the corner of the eye of a big man with the ball ... the basketball we've watching since Tuesday at 8pm CST has been almost borderline unbelievable.
The Miami Heat have played an enormous role in their own repeated massacre - sloppy play and ill-advised shots will get you nowhere when the Spurs machine is clicking. But only so much blame can be levied when you're watching Boris Diaw toss the ball to Patty Mills, who slips an entry to Tiago Splitter in the far post, who surveys the scene before seeing Mills come off of a screen action set by Manu Ginobili. In a moment, Tiago makes a dart into the lane, fooling defenders into thinking he's going to shoot. He passes. Patty Thrillions, money.
On every side of the court the Spurs have had the 2nd-10th best players in the Finals, disregarding the Mecha Godzilla that is Lebron James. But even that has a certain sweetness. These Finals may have briefly turned into a romp, yet it's still exciting to watch the Perfect Human Specimen (PHS) battle against the Perfect Human Offense (PHO).
Which is why, of course, every Spurs fan who has watched even one possession of this fiesta in Miami should know how profoundly spoiled they are. We don't deserve this. Nobody deserves to see a thing this beautiful play out in the sport they love. But we got it, even if it never happens again.
So win or lose this series, or the one after, or the one after -- I'll be able to cue up the past two games and know that "Yeah, I got to see basketball played like that."
Standard Pop Quote
I couldn't have been more proud of you.
- to Kawhi Leonard. I have to admit I teared up a little bit. I've given myself brief moments of worry that Kawhi is just biding his time until he can become a free agent and bolt to Los Angeles. But then I remember that I couldn't imagine a more convincing reason to stay that to hear Gregg Popovich be proud of you. Speaking of...
Kawhi Leonard - 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks.
I'm not sure what to say about Kawhi. I could say that I can't believe fourteen (fifteen if you count the Pacers) teams passed on Leonard in his draft. Sure, maybe he couldn't shoot. Every other aspect of Kawhi's game was there from day one. The killer instinct. the quiet confidence. The body control. THE HANDS. The intelligence and humility. We are just now beginning to realize what Kawhi can be as a player, and if what you're seeing doesn't scare you at all, you need to have your pulse checked.
I made this note in a rehash a long time ago, but it seems as though Kawhi thrives playing against the league's elite wings, especially ones he has to guard. Hence why we've seen quantum leaps in Kawhi Leonard's potential in the Finals - nobody better to take your best shot at than King James.
To say that Kawhi can be this player every night is unrealistic. To know that he's capable of doing this on any night... that's invaluable.
Dwyane Wade - 10 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 3 turnovers.
I don't feel for Wade. The facts about his personal life have long since removed him from the list of people I would respect. Still, it's never easy to watch a Hall Of Fame player be unable to stop the wheels of his career falling off. Wade is in bad shape, and wings like him don't get the chance to reinvent themselves like Duncan did post-Memphis, or Ginobili this year in terms of sheer re-dedication.
But in the individual, this was a poor performance. While Lebron James was his inhuman self... he needs help if Miami wants to extend the series.
Or, put another way...
What if the Heat are just telling LeBron, Wade and Bosh to opt out so they can sign Melo but really they just aren’t gonna re-sign Wade.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) June 13, 2014
By the Numbers
- 40 - Number of FGs by Spurs.
- 25 - Number of assists by Spurs
- 15 - Number of "hockey assists" by Spurs. My god.
- 13 - Number of Spurs that scored tonight. Related, 13 Spurs dressed.
- +27 - Manu Ginobili's +/- tonight, a game high. #TheMannusance hasn't really gone away has it?
- 1 - Tim Duncan's place in All-Time Playoff Minutes played. Congrats Timmy!
- 1 - Tim Duncan's place in All-Time Playoff Double-Double's recorded in history. Congrats, GOATPUFF.
- 1 - I think you know what this number really means.
Bird is the Word
LeBron comes out and has another bad game and then post-game someone asks what happened and he takes off his mask and he's Gene Parmesean.— Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) June 13, 2014
He had an amazing game, so I guess this won't happen. But just keep imagining it!
This is like watching a bear beaten to death with a calculator.— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) June 13, 2014
joey crawford buys his shirts at the library— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) June 13, 2014
I really don't know what this means, but I like it.
HOLY COW...BORIS DIAW pic.twitter.com/xrxePay541— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) June 13, 2014
I'm sorry I haven't gotten a lot of chances to discuss Boris. But man, what an incredible NBA player. He's got one of the most brilliant skill sets I've ever seen, and knows exactly how to use it. Such a treat to watch, and I hope we don't get priced out of resigning him.
Boris Diaw might be the best passer in Texas.— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) June 13, 2014
*Googles "Dunking Diaw"* Eh, close enough... pic.twitter.com/4OUwfIIvgc— Kyle Burkholder (@kyleburkholder) June 13, 2014
AND YET MORE BOBO!
Lord have mercy. If this is any indication of what Kawhi Leonard can be, the next few years of Spurs basketball might be pretty exciting.
That trip to the bathroom is LeBron’s only uncontested deuce.— Leigh Ellis (@LeighEllis) June 13, 2014
The Spurs love passing so much they wanna take it out behind the middle school and get it pregnant. - Tracy Jordan— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) June 13, 2014
Please get well Tracy. And screw you, TMZ.
Been watching basketball for 20+ years now, I’ve never seen a team move the ball like this, its breathtaking.— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) June 13, 2014
NEVER ENOUGH BOBO
I still can't imagine this series not going at least 6— Patrick Fenelon (@Patrick_Fenelon) June 13, 2014
I feel this too...
Game 5 vs. Miami Heat Sunday, June 15 @ 7pm
June 15th will be Father's Day. Something very special happened eleven Father's Days ago. I hope it happens again. Go get it. Go Spurs Go. One