Why the boring Spurs will win it all


The Thunder keep beating them with the crazed-kid fury of Oklahoma beating Texas in the Red River Rivalry. James Harden keeps making fourth-quarter shots against them as if he's a one-man army coming over the walls of the Alamo. Heck, Damian Lillard's new signature adidas shoes should be called the San Antonio Stompers.

The Spurs had only one nonstarting All-Star -- Tony Parker, who made it more on reputation than performance. Their one cinch Hall of Famer, Tim Duncan, is almost 38. Heck, their coach, Gregg Popovich, is now best known for being a terse jerk during in-game TV interviews.

Yet ... the San Antonio Spurs are about to ruin what shape up as all-time great, superstar-studded Western Conference playoffs by winning them, then wreaking revenge on the Miami Heat by beating them in six games in the NBA Finals in Miami, as they should have last June. The Spurs have waited for these playoffs since that nightmarish night of June 18, when they were up five, 28 seconds away from their fifth NBA championship, and blew it. Heat in seven.

Now: Spurs in six.

Yes, the same Spurs who finished the regular season a combined 0-8 against the teams they'll probably have to deal with in Rounds 2 and 3 -- Harden's Houston, then Oklahoma City. As one of the few Spurs supporters in the national media -- if not the lone wolf -- I admit to some concern about the athleticism of the Rockets or Thunder eclipsing the beautiful basketball clinics conducted nightly by the one-for-all Spurs, the NBA's worst nightmare, the un-"SportsCenter" team that wins with emotionless will and subtle skill.

Yet ... despite Spurs starters missing a combined 75 games ... despite having to use 30 different lineups featuring 17 different starters ... despite being the first team since the ABA-NBA merger not to have a single player average even 30 minutes a game ... despite all that, the San Antonio Spurs finished with the NBA's best record BY THREE GAMES. Even playing in the much tougher West, the Spurs finished six games better than East top seed Indiana and eight better than Miami. Even more incredible, the Spurs finished with the NBA's best road record BY FIVE GAMES at 30-11, coming within three of the 1995-96 Bulls' road-wins record.

Yes, the old, slow, boring, unathletic, injury-prone San Antonio Spurs -- the Chuck Taylor All-Stars -- just pretty much toyed with the NBA's regular season. No MVP candidate. No sixth man or rookie of the year nominee. No GameFly or Kia commercials. How is this possible?

Because they're a little better than they were last year and they're much better than two years ago, when they started the playoffs 10-0, including two home wins over OKC -- only to lose four straight to the came-of-age Thunder.

Yet ... the biggest Spurs killer in that series was not Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. In the turning-point Game 5 in San Antonio, the biggest fourth-quarter daggers were 3s shot by Harden, including the last one that gave OKC exactly what the Spurs would have in Miami -- a five-point lead with 28 seconds left. OKC did not blow it.

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