By Rishi Sharma
The San Antonio Spurs are arguably one of the best teams in the NBA. Not just with their standings in this season, but also their outstanding success rate since the NBA was founded. So, what happened to them in the playoffs?
With 61 wins and only 21 losses, the Spurs finished second in the Western Conference Regular Season, behind the Golden State Warriors, who finished with 67 wins and only 15 losses. The two teams have struck fear for all other teams in the Western Conference, and their numbers clearly demonstrate their success. The real action begins when these two teams play head-on.
Out of the 3 games played in the Regular Season, the Spurs actually won two games, illustrating exceptional strategy which was brought into application by the Spurs’ coach, Gregg Popovich, also known as Coach Pop. Coach Pop has been one of the greatest basketball coaches of this generation, which is quite evident from his win-loss percentage. The Spurs had clearly proven to be a challenge for the Warriors. However, in the Playoffs, a different scenario is visible, with the Warriors crushing the Spurs in terms of scoring; securing two wins down the road.
In Round 1 of the Playoffs, the Warriors battled against the Portland Trailblazers. They won the series 4-0. Then, during Round 2, they played the Utah Jazz, who they also beat 4-0. Meanwhile the Spurs played the Memphis Grizzlies for Round 1 and the Houston Rockets for Round 2, winning both series 4-2. For Round 3, the Spurs face the Warriors. As stated earlier, the Spurs have remained a constant threat to the Warriors, as they lost ⅔ of the games against them, despite being the best team in the conference.
Round 3 began with the tip-off going to the Spurs. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 86-63, in favor of the Spurs. At this point, the Warriors lost all hope of winning Game 1. An unlikely twist took place during the 3rd quarter. Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs got injured due to a Shooting Foul by Zaza Pachulia. Watch the foul below:
Pachulia had stepped into the space of Leonard’s footing, where he would land after the shot. Many describe this play “dirty”, but a valid counter argument is that Pachulia simply does not have eyes on his back, and as evident in the video, he did not seem to be aware of the fact that he had illegally evaded Leonard’s landing space.
After Leonard’s departure, the Warriors paced steadily, finishing the game by a 2 point lead, 113-111. The fact that Pachulia’s foul was the clear factor in the Spurs’ loss, not just the fans, but Coach Pop himself took to the media, while illustrating an extreme amount of rage towards Pachulia’s “dirty” foul.
Coach Pop’s act, as pointed out by many sport analysts, is considered hypocrisy, as he had defended a similar play by his own player, Bruce Bowen. Watch the foul below:
As evident in the video, Bruce Bowen slams Wally Szczerbiak’s face with his foot. In fact, Bowen’s foul is visibly more “intentional” when compared to Pachulia’s. Along with Szczerbiak, there is a long list of some of NBA’s biggest stars that have fallen prey to Bowen’s fouls. These include Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Amare Stoudemire, Vince Carter, Steve Francis, Ray Allen, Jamal Crawford, and Chris Paul, and many others. Bowen is referred to as the “dirtiest” defender in the NBA as he has committed many similar fouls, and yet, his actions are justified by Coach Pop, which illustrates the pure hypocrisy.
After Leonard’s injury, the Warriors won all, Game 2, Game 3, and Game 4, and the scores were 136 – 100, 120 – 108, and 129 – 115 respectively, winning the series 4-0, and making their way to the NBA Finals.
On the other side of the league, the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the first two games against the Boston Celtics, 117-104 for the Game 1, and demonstrated an astonishing performance in Game 2, with the score being 136-80. After the whopping 56-point loss in Game 2, fans almost lost their hope in their team. However, the Celtics put up a fight, finishing Game 3 with a victory: 111-108. Game 4, again, went into the Cavaliers’ favor, 112-99 on the scoreboard. The Cavaliers then finished off Game 5, winning 135-102, successfully making their way to the battle for the trophy.
After what seems to be truly devastating situation for the Spurs, the Warriors have made it through to the finals, and are waiting for the Eastern Conference Finals to finish. Fans sit on the edge of their seats, preparing for the epic battle that the NBA finals will be.