Experience is everything. Whether their opponents consisted of athletically quick wunderkinds who were proficient shooters (Golden State Warriors) or were made up of defensive juggernauts that used their physical presence to force turnovers in critical situations (Memphis Grizzlies), the San Antonio Spurs never used their age as an excuse for any adversity they have faced. Rather, with each emotional defeat the Spurs became even stronger and more formidable than they were before. Instead of fighting fire with fire, the Spurs used their ingenuity and various experiences to counterattack teams at their weakest moments even if the situation demanded a high level of physicality and determination.
In the case of the Golden State Warriors, it was all about taking away their lights out perimeter shooting which had the ability to demoralize any opponent before they had time to rebel with a scoring streak of their own. However, the Spurs knew that they couldn’t out shoot the Warriors. They knew that they didn’t have the speed or the stamina to keep up with the high-octane transition offense that was the hallmark of the Warriors attacking style. Rather than succumbing to frustration because of their ineptness in these categories the Spurs did what they do best; they regrouped and came together as a team. They realized that while they couldn’t beat the Warriors at their own high paced game, they did have one key advantage that their opponent didn’t have in their ranks; Immense size.
Once this advantage became fully realized, the Spurs went all in and began contesting nearly every perimeter shot that Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry put up. The results were nothing short of mesmerizing. For the first time in the series, the Spurs stifled the Warriors once unstoppable shooting abilities with Golden State’s dynamic duo (Thompson and Curry) hitting only 12 of 37 shots (32%) from the field. Eventually, the Spurs got going offensively with Tony parker scoring 25 points in the first half along with Tim Duncan posting a double-double to cap off a decisive turning point in the series. While the Warriors eventually bounced back in game four to tie the series, they never were able to fully reassert themselves the way they once had. In the last two games of the series, the Spurs won in a dominant fashion by margins of 18 and 12.
After winning the series in six games the Spurs made one thing abundantly clear; we’re here to win a championship and nothing less.
Currently, the Spurs have dominated the Memphis Grizzlies in the conference finals by taking a 3-0 series lead. Just like in the series with the Warriors, the Spurs used their mental fortitude to devise a suitable game plan that would cater to their strengths while taking advantage of their opponent’s weaknesses. The only difference this time was that the Spurs didn’t need to lose two games to reassess what the right course of action was in order to succeed. Instead, coming right out of the gate they knew exactly what needed to be done. Between doubling up Zach Randolph in the paint to prevent easy lay ups and effective ball movement that opened up perimeter shooters to make uncontested three point shots, the Spurs locked down the defensively heavy Grizzlies from the opening tip. While the Grizzlies have made adjustments of their own to prevent the Spurs from being prolific shooters in their own right, they don’t have the killer extinct or discipline that the Spurs have exhibited throughout the playoffs. If you’re up by 16 points after the first quarter, you need to be able to make the adjustment from a high octane defense to a softer zone that discourages penetration and forces a team to take ill advised perimeter shots which usually result in an easy defensive rebound. Instead, Memphis got cocky and continued to take inaccurate perimeter shots while relying on Zach Randolph to make every play in the paint or draw a foul. As a result, the Spurs were able to easily penetrate a winded Memphis defense by outscoring them 58-42 in the paint that ultimately allowed them to bounce back from their debilitating deficit.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine the Spurs blowing a 3-0 series lead given their undeniable consistencies in all facets of their game along with their ability to use their unwavering finesse to effectively dissect a crucial situation before their opponent can get the jump on them. In an era where physical dominance and youthful vivacity have become the most appreciated and sought after traits for a great basketball organization, the San Antonio Spurs have unquestionably proved to be the unbeatable anomaly despite not fulfilling this newly profound prerequisite.
If the Spurs can continue to play their methodical and wisely patient style of basketball, they could go on to not only potentially be NBA champions for the fifth time in fourteen years, they could also prove that age is not tantamount to a teams skill and will to win. In the case of the Spurs, their innate skill set speaks for itself.