They lost to New Orleans in their regular-season finale to fall to the sixth seed in the Western Conference. They lost to the Clippers – by 15 points, no less – in the first game of their first-round playoff series.
At that moment, the San Antonio Spurs were being counted out. The defending champs were losing on the road to younger, more athletic teams. This year, critics said, would be the year they would bow out of the playoffs early. Finally, their dynasty was ending.
Yeah, that’s a nice little story, but uh, then Tuesday night happened.
The Spurs outlasted the Clippers, 111-107, in overtime (not bad for old legs, eh?) to even their series at 1-1. It was a game the Spurs needed, and it was as gritty and as gutsy of a performance as you’ll see in the playoffs.
It was vintage San Antonio.
“We’ve all learned this lesson over the last 18 years: Don’t ever count them out,” former NBA guard and current Pelicans analyst David Wesley said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “In November and December, you were saying, ‘Well, that run’s over. They’re not going to win 50 games this year.’”
No, they didn’t. They won 55 and came within one game of the No. 2 seed in a locked and loaded Western Conference. Game 3 is Friday in San Antonio at 8:30 p.m. ET.
“Now they’re a lower seed and they’re going to meet up with some of them higher seeds,” Wesley said. “I think people almost wish they were second so that they had played a lower seed (in the first round) and (then played the Clippers or another elite team) in the second round.”
As it stands, the Spurs will have to win three straight playoff series without home-court advantage if they hope to win the West for the third consecutive season.
Based on Tuesday’s result, that is a distinct possibility. Tony Parker had just one point, and Manu Ginobili mustered only nine on 2-of-6 shooting from the floor, but other Spurs stepped up. Kawhi Leonard had 23. Patty Mills had 18. Boris Diaw had 12. The Spurs had 26 assists on 42 made field goals. Seven players scored at least nine points.
“This team is a machine,” Wesley said. “They come out every year, and they just do what they do. It’s not flashy. It’s not awesome. It’s just winning basketball.”
And then there’s Tim Duncan. The soon-to-be 39-year-old – his birthday is Saturday – had 28 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block, more than holding his own against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan down on the block.
“To see Old Man River Walk go out there and put up numbers like he’s doing just defies his age and the time he’s been in this league,” Wesley said. “Tim Duncan (is) one of the best of all time.”