Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21), point guard Tony Parker (9), and shooting guard Manu Ginobili (left) during the fourth quarter of game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs: An Unlikely Road Back to the NBA Finals

The San Antonio Spurs shouldn’t be here. The Spurs shouldn’t be in line to win titles 15 years apart with the same coach-and-star combination.  They shouldn’t be dominating significantly younger teams.

They shouldn’t have recovered from losing Game 7 of the previous NBA Finals. They shouldn’t be here.

But they are.

All the Spurs needed was a five-foot layup by living legend Tim Duncan to create a five-point cushion with three minutes left in the 2013 NBA Finals. That shot didn’t go, but the dream was still alive.

All the Spurs needed were a pair of free throws from clutch maestro Manu Ginobili. Ginobili missed one of the two attempts, but San Antonio was still in business.

All the Spurs needed were two free throws from Kawhi Leonard to create a two-possession lead with less than 20 seconds on the clock. Leonard missed the front end. Nevertheless, San Antonio was still in control.

All the Spurs needed was a defensive rebound to clinch the 2013 NBA Finals and become five-time NBA champions under Gregg Popovich. Instead, Chris Bosh tipped it out to Ray Allen.

The rest is history.

Rather than allowing four separate missed opportunities to win a title to sink them—and that doesn’t include the subsequent Game 7—the Spurs used it as motivation. As fuel to an everlasting fire.

One year later, the Spurs are right back in the NBA Finals with another chance at history. It’s important that we as a basketball community don’t overlook the history that’s already being made.

The Spurs are defying the odds in every manner imaginable.

Rather than being crippled by coming up short in 2013, San Antonio finished the 2013-14 regular season with a league-best 62 wins. No other team in the NBA finished with more than 59.

San Antonio stumbled early in the playoffs, but have since won nine of 12 against the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Most of those wins have been lopsided, to say the least.

Eight of San Antonio’s past nine wins have come by at least 15 points. Against the deep and lethal Western Conference.

In the playoffs.

Many teams would’ve cracked after losing in the Finals in such a manner. A similar amount would’ve completely crumbled with age and a supposedly closing window of opportunity factored in.

Not the Spurs.

One year later, San Antonio has a chance to alter history. Tim Duncan and Popovich will pursue their fifth rings. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will look for their fourth.

Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, the future of the Spurs, will pursue ring No. 1.

By winning, Duncan would tie Kobe Bryant for the most titles of any star from their era. Popovich would join Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, John Kundla and Pat Riley as the only coaches in NBA history with at least five rings.

Parker has the opportunity to join Magic Johnson as the only point guards to ever earn multiple Finals MVP awards.

For as great as we know San Antonio to be, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Teams aren’t supposed to make the NBA Finals after losing in a Game 7 on that very stage.

The last team to do it: the 1989 Detroit Pistons. The Bad Boys fell 4-3 to the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers in 1988 before meeting Pat Riley, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar again the very next season.

As fate would have it, the Spurs are in a very similar position to those Pistons. Miami has been constructed by Riley, and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are this era’s rock star trio.

Those Pistons capitalized on that second opportunity by earning a dominant sweep. How will San Antonio fare?

The Spurs will look to follow suit, whether they achieve the sweep or not. Despite featuring two very finesse teams, this is going to be a gritty series. There will be physicality. There will be trash-talking. Legacies will be altered.

Before this series commences, however, we should not focus on the result. It’s not yet about the win. It’s not yet about the loss. It’s not yet about the glory.

Before this series begins, we as a basketball community should marvel over an organization that has re-defined consistency.

San Antonio has won at least 50 games in an out-of-this-world 15 straight seasons. The last time the Spurs failed to achieve 50 victories was the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.

All the Spurs did was go 37-13 and win the NBA championship.

Fifteen long years later, San Antonio is back. With the same head coach and the same legendary big man.

Teams aren’t supposed to win rings 15 years apart with the same coach and star. It’s not unheard of. It just doesn’t happen.

Eleven years after the 2002-03 title, the Spurs are back with the same core of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. More than a decade has passed, yet all three players have displayed periods of dominance in these playoffs.

In the process, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker set the NBA record for wins by a trio during the postseason.

Age isn’t a hindrance and history isn’t a factor for this Spurs squad. It’s a new day with every passing game. And in less than 24 hours, a new chapter will unfold in this story that will be told for generations to come.

Marvel these Spurs. Accept that there is a time limit on their brilliance. Enjoy this while you can.

With or without another championship, this Spurs team is making history.

Tags: 2014 Nba Finals Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan

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