The San Antonio Spurs began their run in the NBA Playoffs with a ten-game winning streak. That seems like a long time ago now, however, considering that the Oklahoma City Thunder just defeated them for a third consecutive time in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The loss, resulting in the first three-game losing streak the Spurs have had to endure all season, would be pretty difficult to put on the Spurs. Instead, it seems like the Thunder have finally reached their potential -- as SB Nation colleague Andrew Sharp notes -- while the Spurs can only see their primes in the rearview mirror.
All isn't lost in San Antonio quite yet, though, because this is the same Spurs team that strung together 20 wins in a row earlier this year. Heck, this is the same team that some thought might sweep the Thunder once they took a 2-0 advantage earlier in the series.
In fact, this might be exactly what the Spurs needed. The vulnerability might even help the Spurs get on track, according to Pounding the Rock's Matthew Tynan.
Popovich entered the locker room - which he never does following a game amidst the media scrum - and walked right up to the 20-year-old rookie who is less than a third his age. He put his hand on Kawhi Leonard's broad shoulder and said something that led the rookie to nod in acknowledgement. Whatever it was he said, and whatever the reason for the brief heart-to-heart, Pop showed he's not the rigid old man most see him as. He knows this was only Game 5, and more importantly he knows he needs his youngest player if this series is to continue.
For the first time all season this team looked human. Suddenly, this machine not only seemed mortal, it appeared wounded. But if there's one thing you hope vulnerability invokes, it's a higher sense of pride - perhaps the most important human emotion in sports. There's no shortage of that with this team, especially in certain corners.
Whether the current setbacks are enough to reinvigorate Tim Duncan and the Spurs remains to be seen, but after reading that ... one has to think they have a chance, huh?
For more on the Spurs, check out Pounding the Rock. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's NBA page.