The San Antonio Spurs are not the team to beat the Miami Heat; they’re the team to beat, period. The truth is, the Spurs have been an elite team for so long that people just shrug their success off because it’s so commonplace for them. It’s only when they take a commanding 2-0 lead against MVP Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder that everyone notices that they’re still one of the best teams in the NBA.
The core of Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili has aged together like fine wine. The Spurs players make up a team that connects so well with each other, utilizing basketball fundamentals and savvy to produce devastatingly amazing results, such as the 112-77 slaughter of the Thunder in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. It’s really no surprise as to why they’ve made it this far, again, and why they’re probably heading to the NBA finals, again. They play pure, smart basketball.
What also gives them the advantage as the team to beat is that they know how to deal with defeat, and use it to better themselves. I’m sure that losing in last year’s NBA Finals, which went to seven games, fueled them up again to get this far this time around. They use failure as a teacher, and they learn and grow, relying on hard work and fundamentals to get them by, especially because the core is made up of a bunch of oldies. The old dogs are schooling the young pups, playing beautiful basketball. It’s as simple as that.
Okay, so what about the potential Heat three-peat? Sure, the Heat beat them out in seven games last year, but hey, that was last year. Of course, they both need to get passed their respective conference finals, but something tells me that a rematch is coming. Lebron James is hungry, looking for that third ring, Dwyane Wade has enough in him to play like the superstar he once was, in bursts, when they need him to be the Flash, and Chris Bosh is still as solid as ever. The Heat are still up there, but at this very moment, the Spurs seem to have the upper hand.
I’m sure a good amount of people out there forgot that the Spurs had a 62-20 regular season, which was the best record in the NBA, with a point differential of 7.7 (also the best in the league). How do they conjure up such magical statistics? They share the ball, and they share it well. Everyone contributes, and everyone is focused, taking in Popovich’s words of wisdom as law. Not to mention, Popovich has quite a few tricks up his sleeves, including “The Hammer.”
Grantland’s Brett Koremenos describes the Hammer: “The Spurs’ ‘Hammer’ action, in which a ball handler drives toward the baseline on one side of the floor in order to make a pass to a shooter floating toward the opposite corner with the help of a back screen, is a classic example of San Antonio sleight of hand.”
And there’s plenty more where that came from to give the opposition plenty of headaches to endure.
Whether the Spurs are up by 26 points or four, they don’t let things slide. If someone is fed a beautiful dime, and a player fails to connect on an easy inside shot, they remember and they adjust. That’s dedication. Everyone’s mind is on the same page; they adapt, execute, and persevere as a whole. In a league that glorifies superstars, fancy moves, and monstrous dunks, the Spurs are a perfect reminder of how to play stunning, pure basketball. After all, that’s how they survived on the top of the NBA for so long.
They do everything as a team, and although they have stars like Duncan and Ginobili, the team always comes first. Throughout their play as of late, the Spurs make other big teams look normal or even amateurish. The question is how long can they keep this up in the post-season? Being the team to beat doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Heat, Thunder, and Indiana Pacers are still in the game. Players could go down. Stars could have bad nights. Chemistry could be disturbed. Big shots could be made by stars-in-the-making. Anything could happen. However, if the team to beat stays consistent, one thing is more likely to happen than any other.