The San Antonio Spurs fell just short of another NBA championship on Thursday in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. A fifth championship with roughly the same core of guys would have been a historic accomplishment, but the Spurs can take some solace in knowing they gave their fans a wild ride all the way to the last possible game of the NBA season.
San Antonio exits with a long list of indelible moments this season. Let's look back on some of those.
The Spurs are not known for being a "fun" team, and despite having excellent coach Gregg Popovich leading excellent players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they're rarely given the mainstream credit the team deserves. Taking the Heat to seven games, though -- led by the game's most popular player in LeBron James -- should allow San Antonio to get some added recognition they've dutifully earned over the past 15 years.
San Antonio, as SB Nation's Tom Ziller wrote earlier in the Spurs' run to the championship, has essentially done everything right over the last 15 years of their existence. There were minor hiccups, sure, but the Spurs built themselves from the inside while following their coach's lead to being a proper professional sports team. It hasn't always been exciting, but San Antonio certainly earned the fanfare they should receive after upending basketball's favorite bandwagon.
Argentina's Finest simply hasn't been the game-changer he used to be early in his career. As Toby Keith might say, though, Ginobili showed in Game 5 of the NBA Finals that he might not be as good as he once was -- but he was as good once as he ever was.
Ginobili was given the starting nod on Sunday night and came through in a big way, scoring 24 points on some of the most difficult shot attempts possible -- while still somehow possessing an efficient 8-of-14 line from the field -- and adding ten assists as he turned the clock back to yesteryear.
It might not be a moment that goes down in Finals history, but Spurs fans will certainly remember the aging Ginobili's impressive performance when looking back on this incredible season.
Ginobili took all of the headlines following the game in which the Spurs broke the 2-2 tie at home, but former NBA castoff Danny Green was able to wrestle a share of the spotlight away with his sharpshooting abilities.
Heat swingman Ray Allen formerly held the record for most three-pointers in an NBA Finals series when he hit 22 with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Green shattered that record, however, moving three shots ahead of Allen's mark through just five games of the Finals. Luckily for those that were focused on the Big Threes of each team, the NBA's YouTube account posted video of the record-breaking performance:
The Spurs swept both the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies -- sandwiched by a six-game series with the Golden State Warriors -- in their run to the NBA Finals. The pair of sweeps is nothing monumental, but it did lead to an interesting scheduling quirk that saw San Antonio take a ten-day layoff before beginning their championship series against the Heat.
That led to a "rest vs. rust" debate for the aging Spurs, leading San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford to tell Sam Amick of USA Today that the team wasn't sure how it might react to the break between games:
"We don't know how to react to rest vs. rust," he told USA Today Sports. "It is what it is, and we're trying to prepare and maintain focus and rhythm and reduce opportunities for an injury. But there isn't a perfect (practice) program that gets you there. At our age, the rest is appropriate, but we'll find out if it works or not when we go back to playing."
San Antonio sprung back to life, though, taking a 1-0 lead over the hosting Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Talk of the rust vs. rest debate was put to, well ... rest, too, as it was said after the game that Miami MVP LeBron James suffered from fatigue in the opening-game loss -- something that likely wouldn't have happened had he been given ten days to rest his body.
There were times this postseason that the most exciting thing happening around the Spurs didn't involve any of their players, but instead the antics of Coach Pop. The Naval Academy graduate gets straight to the point -- sometimes to a fault, if one would ask reporters trying to get a quote -- and, occasionally, fun results from his stoic behavior.
Popovich showed his relaxed side a few times throughout the playoffs -- like the time he let his point guard run the huddle or when he surprised everyone by seemingly being sincere at a Finals' media day -- but it's the fact that ESPN's Marc Stein devoted an entire column to allowing reporters to share horror stories about interviewing Popovich that made the coach always a candidate for an interesting moment this postseason.
Oh, and don't worry -- our own Tom Ziller made a handy chart that shows there are plenty of possible successors that have been given the opportunity to learn first hand from Popovich ... meaning plenty of moments from the men manning the sidelines will be possible in upcoming Finals -- with or without Popovich's Spurs.
Spurs fans aren't known as a crazy bunch like those that roam the higher seats in Madison Square Garden or the raucous crowds that have been sort-of sixth men for Golden State, but San Antonio certainly showed its support for their team during the run to another NBA championship.
It's not exactly clear what the best "moment" was, as it might be the fans shaving pictures of their favorite players into the back of their heads, the lady who freaked out when Tim Duncan made a hustle play right into her lap or the "We did it!" guy, but the fans chanting the Heat theme in glee as San Antonio cruised to a blowout victory was a priceless moment in the history of fans trolling the visiting team.
The San Antonio Spurs didn't have a ton of amazing "moments" in their run up to the Finals, but that is exactly what the Spurs are built on -- nothing too extravagant, just solid consistency, superb game-planning and players stepping up when it matters most.