Culture of Hoops

Déjà-vu: San Antonio Spurs headed back to the NBA Finals

Image courtesy  of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

There were many key plays during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals that helped cement the San Antonio Spurs’ fate in history, and would earn them a trip to the Finals for the second year in a row. Key plays like Manu Ginobili 3-pointer in the fourth, a missed goaltending by Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka on Ginobili in the final minutes, Tim Duncan scoring seven points in order to give his Spurs a 110-107 boost with 19 seconds left in overtime. And many, many more.

Despite an unbelievable (and painful looking) dunk by Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard that seemed to murder Ibaka during the first minute of Game 6, the first 12 minutes belonged to the Thunder, who managed to go on a 9-0 run in order to lead 11-6 with 8:20 left. San Antonio wouldn’t back down and came within three by the close of the quarter, trailing 20-23. Leonard put his Spurs back up 26-25 with a 3-point sinker with 8:16 left in the half, which was then pushed by ginger Matt Bonner from behind the arc to make the lead 33-29. OKC would lead at the half 49-42, despite their bench scoring zero points.

It was announced at the start of the second half that Tony Parker would not return to the game due to soreness in his left ankle, which seemed to cast a dim shadow over the Spurs and boost the energy of the Thunder, who looked upon Parker as a prickly thorn in their side. However, San Antonio started strong with a 9-2 run to tie the game at 51 with 8:18 remaining in the third. Kevin Durant attributed to OKC dominance by putting up 20 points already in the game, along with Russell Westbrook, who was all over the floor. Reggie Jackson was also one not to be overlooked and put the Thunder up 67-66 late in the third with a rebound that resulted in a layup. OKC would trail by 10 going into the fourth though after a 13-2 run by the Spurs, which pushed them up 79-69. San Antonio outscored the Thunder 37-20 WITHOUT Parker.

Intensity ensued in the fourth as Oklahoma City attempted a comeback, and were down by just seven with under eight minutes left, their entire season on the line. Jackson, Westbrook, and Durant cut the Spurs lead down to two, trailing 91-93 with 4:01 left. A steal and a bucket by Westbrook (which was then followed by duel Durant free throws) would tie the game at 97 with 58 seconds remaining. Spurs took the lead again, but OKC came back to tie the game at 101.

Despite the youthfulness of OKC, they looked exhausted going into overtime. Durant and Westbrook had over 30 points each, but seemed to be slowing down somewhat. Durant had played 47 minutes of the game, while veteran Tim Duncan had only played 34 minutes for the Spurs and looked fresh. The Spurs were up 110-107 with 19 seconds left in OT.

Turns out, the Spurs wanted it more. San Antonio would laminate their dominance by taking Game 6 112-107, earning them a trip back to the Finals to face the team that denied them glory in 2013: the Miami Heat.

The Finals start on Thursday.

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