The victory brings Pop’s grand total (regular season and playoff wins) to 1319. The number may seem obscure, but it ties Jerry Sloan for 5th place. Just another measuring stick with which to validate the Spurs coach’s accomplishments.
To celebrate tonight’s win -2nd of the 5 needed to reach the 6th spot- we remember Pop’s 2nd NBA Championship game clinching win against the New Jersey Nets.
Championship #2- June 15, 2003
What makes it so important:
- It legitimized the Spurs by showing that 1999 was no fluke, telling Phil Jackson what he could do with his asterisk.
- What a way to break in the SBC Center in its first season.
- The Admiral, who dedicated his career to San Antonio, went out on a championship.
- Tim Duncan blocked 32 shots in six games creating an NBA Finals record that still stands.
- Duncan ended the series with a 2nd Finals MVP and an unofficial quadruple-double.
Pop makes the tough calls
Throughout the Finals, the Nets dominated the first period. Before Game 6, Gregg Popovich stressed to his team to play within the system, no heroes. A minute and a half into Game 6, Stephen Jackson took his second ill-advised shot and Pop replaced him with Manu Ginobili.
In addition to Manu, Steve Kerr made an early appearance to spread the defense. After 11 minutes combined in the first five games, Kerr played 9 in Game 6.
Speedy Claxton also took minutes that had been going to Tony Parker. Pop was not afraid to shake things up and sit his budding French starter when it was clear he was struggling. In the highlights, you can clearly see a frustrated Parker on the sidelines desperate to get back into the game.
These are the kinds of on-the-fly adjustments Pop made, decisions that could have ended the career of almost any other coach. But trust in Coach Pop has generated 20 playoff-bound seasons and the greatest winning percentage by a coach in any of the four major sports over the last 20 years.
On a personal side note, I have seen nothing creepier than Jason Kidd blowing kisses to the glass before each free throw. I know players are superstitious and ritualistic, but some things should be abandoned for being too awkward. But I digress…
Legends on the hardwood
Tim Duncan went for 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks (that were recorded) in what was his MVP clincher. David Robinson scored 13 points and pulled down 17 rebounds. As the first half ended, the five players on the court were Robinson, Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. At some point in the near future, all 5 will be joined again when their respective jerseys are hanging together in the rafters of the AT&T Center. So far they are 3 for 5 with two still going strong.
A 4th quarter 19-0 run sealed the deal as the Spurs went from a 72-63 deficit to a 82-72 lead closing the door on the Nets chances to win an NBA Championship.
Don’t believe the hype
After the Lakers 3peat, the Spurs/Nets series was not considered as marketable a Finals match-up. For starters, it was the first time two ABA teams met in the Finals. Both are considered small market teams. The Spurs had Duncan who was not considered a charismatic superstar. The Nets had Jason Kidd. But otherwise, these teams were not as outspoken or flashy as many of the hyped NBA elite. To make matters worse, the teams both exercised strong defense leading to low scoring games. Overall, the entire series showcased low scoring matches. The Spurs broke the 90-point barrier twice, and passed 100 once.
An officer and a gentleman
The 2003 NBA Finals sent off David Robinson in the most appropriate way, ending his stellar career as an NBA Champion, and on Father’s Day no less. In addition, Steve Kerr retired after winning two championships with the Spurs, five total in what was a most impressive career. Danny Ferry would also hang it up at the close of the 2003 season, leaving the Spurs to move into the Big 3 era for the next dozen years.
What are your memories of the 2003 Finals? Please join in the discussion in the comments section below.