In the Game of Thrones, the great game is terrifying. It's chaos in its purist sense -- people die (#NoSpoilerAlert), alliances change, people die, power shifts, more people die, trust is broken, a lot more stuff happens and way more people die. The Throne -- the position as King of Westeros -- is the end game here. The Throne is nice until the game crashes down, ruining everything. Because the Throne is temporary, but the game is forever.
In the Game of Basketball, the great game resembles a dynamic ladder and is similarly terrifying. Teams win games, other teams lose, eventually teams are eliminated, injuries happen, the basketball bounces in favor of one team and not the other until one team is left seated on the Throne.
Each rung up the ladder is one step closer to the Throne -- in this case, the NBA championship -- and the journey is not without its perils. Few teams have the talent, fortitude and requisite health/luck to survive this gauntlet. While the Spurs make the familiar trek, gunning for a sixth title, the great game is staring them in the face. Grinning. Because the great game always wins in the end.
But at least the first test is completed. I won't spend too much time breaking down the Spurs' 116-95 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies that finished the first-round sweep; the result was nothing more than gaining a rung on the ladder of the great game, nothing more than a formality for a basketball team thinking about the bigger picture. The Grizzlies aren't a part of that picture, because injuries raided the team of any hope before the great game began.
Memphis didn't have anything left to give in the series, yet still found a way to give something. I don't mean this as a slight: Memphis should be proud of the sweep. The final two games of the series weren't easy, even though the Spurs -- equipped with Basketball Super Robot Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and a roster that can compete with anyone in the NBA -- didn't need a sword to slay Memphis, whose limbs were chopped off in March.
The first-round wasn't particularly telling. There's no point in using this series as a predictor of any kind. In all, the Spurs beat a clearly inferior opponent. Nothing more, nothing less.
By next week, after the Spurs spend the several days resting on its laurels waiting for the Oklahoma City Thunder (presumably), we'll learn a great deal about the Spurs and whether they can survive the great game for the long haul.
The real battles in the Game of Basketball are just beginning. And, make no mistake about it: The Spurs are coming.
Kawhi Leonard: 21 points on 6-10 shooting, 7-7 from the foul line, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 3-pointers, 2 steals.
Kawhi did this in just three quarters. Once again, he was the calming force as the Spurs couldn't separate from the Grizzlies in the first half (Kawhi poured in 12 points in the second quarter). Then the third quarter happened, Spurs flipped the switch, Kawhi terrorized everyone and the Spurs ran away with the victory.
Kawhi's final averages for the series: 21.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 3-pointers, 2.8 steals, 2.8 blocks, 52.7 FG%, 61.1 3P% and 94.4 FT%. And he only played in the fourth once during the series. Un-freaking-real.
Quote of the night
"Tim is like 100 years old, so guys like that need to rest."
- LaMarcus Aldridge
By the numbers
- +88: Spurs' point differential in the sweep (Spurs 412, Grizzlies 324), the third-largest margin of victory ever in a sweep.
- 19: Berths in the conference semifinals for the Spurs, the second most appearances in this span.
- 155: Playoff wins for Tim Duncan, tying him with Robert Horry for second all-time. Only Derek Fisher (ugh) has more postseason victories than The Big Fundamental.
- 129: Playoff wins for Tony Parker, tying him with Shaquille O'Neal. He passed Magic Johnson with today's win.
- 9: Sweeps in the playoffs for Gregg Popovich, passing Phil Jackson for most all-time.
- 1: Boban slam.
- 1: Kawhi smile and LAUGH. This is rare.
- 0: Wins for the Grizzlies but, to their credit, they made the last two games difficult (even if the margin of victory was 19-points Sunday.)
- Here's a hot take: Pie is better than cake.
- Oh, and here's a hot basketball sports take: Kawhi was the best player on the floor today. Again.
- That's all the #analysis that I have for you.
Spurs championship tracker:— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) April 24, 2016
For as boring and predictable as this series was, you have to tip your cap to the Grizz.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) April 24, 2016
the lights have been out in memphis for four minutes so i figure matt barnes has probably stabbed 16 maybe 17 people by now— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) April 24, 2016
The lights go dark in Memphis. I'm guessing it's not because these teams are shooting them out.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 24, 2016
A live look at Kawhi Leonard pic.twitter.com/QwzZO7lKMo— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 24, 2016
The power has turned off in Memphis which is just the Basketball God's way of saying "hell nah fam this series needs to end right now"— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) April 24, 2016
We don’t have to continue. We can just call it. It’s better for everyone, really
— David McGinnis (@dav_mcg) April 24, 2016
The Boban has been unleashed.— Did Boban play? (@DidBobanPlay) April 24, 2016
Spurs tho. pic.twitter.com/8LCCh5vq1G— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) April 24, 2016
Taco Bell menu item of the game
*Disclaimer: This section is not sponsored by Taco Bell. I'm just a huge fan. It's in my Twitter bio (@quixem), after all. Direct any "Taco Bell is terrible how could you like this toxic sludge" comments below. It's cool.
The final game in probably the least interesting playoff series ever has to be the bean burrito. There's not much depth here, because it's literally just a tortilla, beans, some cheese, onions and red sauce. Cheap and easy, but not memorable. That's the Spurs-Grizzlies series in a nutshell: Quick, but not memorable.
And that's a wrap. Until next time ...