For the second year in a row, the San Antonio Spurs will face the Miami Heat after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-102 to win the Western Conference finals.
But it wasn’t easy.
Coming into Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, the Spurs and Thunder had played each other to the weirdest draw we’ve seen this postseason. While each game had been a blowout, the Spurs winning games 1 and 2, the Thunder winning games 3 and 4, and the Spurs taking game 5, it was tough to choose who had been the superior team and that same thought came into fruition for game 6.
Throughout the game we saw two monsters go head to head, but going into the second half, the San Antonio Spurs took a huge blow as they lost Tony Parker for the second half because of an ailing ankle injury. But that didn’t stop the well-oiled machine that is San Antonio. This was a moment Gregg Popovich had prepared his team for all throughout the season as he never shied away from giving young players minutes in big games. And the Spurs responded, scoring 37 points to take a 79-69 points lead over the Thunder heading into the fourth quarter.
And the Thunder refused to back down. Storming back behind the efforts of Kevin Durant (11 points in the fourth) and Russell Westbrook (14 points in the fourth), the Thunder would tie the game up at 97 with 58 seconds left in the game. And with each blunder came the right play. Manu Ginobili here. Russell Westbrook there. Kevin Durant here. With each side pushing and pulling, neither team did enough to pull ahead, heading into overtime.
The push would continue, but in the waning minutes, the Oklahoma City Thunder would fall short, as the Spurs took the win, and the series, behind two late buckets from Tim Duncan.
For the Thunder, it’s another year where they fall short of their goal to win a championship behind the tremendous efforts of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Some will harp over their future, but the team is in as good a position as any other team in the NBA. The trio of Serge Ibaka, Westbrook, and Durant are all under the age of 26, Steven Adams has shown capable of being a starter soon, Reggie Jackson has begun to come into his own, and the organization is great at finding talent in the draft. There’s no guarantee they’ll win a championship, but to think they won’t be competing for one for the next five or so years is ludicrous.
Opposite of the Thunder, the Spurs know their opportunity to capsize this dynasty is now. Their core of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan only have but so few years left in them. Kawhi Leonard has likely pushed those years up as he’s shown enough to think he’ll be a bonafide star, but the trio is what this team relies on. And now they’re preparing for their sixth NBA Finals appearance since 1999.
There are no guarantee they’ll win it, but if last years NBA finals matchup between the Spurs and Miami Heat showed us anything, it’ll be one hell of a ride.