The San Antonio Spurs kicked into gear in the fourth quarter to rally from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. The win might have seemed routine to some, since it was their 19th straight victory, extending a franchise record.
Not only did they prolong a franchise-record winning streak, but they also matched the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers for the most consecutive wins to start the playoffs.
Tim Duncan, who posted 16 points and 11 rebounds on Sunday, has averaged 18.3 points and nine rebounds per game since the Spurs routed the Memphis Grizzlies 107-97 to start the run on April 12.
Tony Parker has averaged 17 points and 9.1 assists per game in that time.
And Duncan and Parker have rested four and two games, respectively, during the streak.
What does this all mean?
Not much—at least as far as the Spurs' title pursuit is concerned. The one meaningful thing the winning streak provided was the Spurs' first conference finals berth since 2008.
Parker reflected on this as he demurred on a question about the streak.
"We don't even think about it," he said, as quoted by CBSSports.com.
Parker might seem unexcited, but he recognizes what the Spurs are shooting for. The Spurs' central goal is winning their fifth NBA title in franchise history, and their first in five years. Everything else—from statistics to winning streaks—is peripheral.
The streak seems even less significant when one considers what the Spurs did to get their 19 straight wins. Five of the 10 wins they earned to finish the season were against winning teams.
In their first two playoff series, the Spurs had very unbalanced coaching matchups. Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin was in his first full season as head coach this year. Vinny Del Negro of the Los Angeles Clippers is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum of coaching aptitude from Gregg Popovich.
Also, the Spurs had the benefit of facing a Clippers team in the conference semifinals that had both of its star players, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, playing through injuries.
The Spurs have a much tougher road to attain the last seven games needed to win an NBA title than they did in winning the first 18 games of this streak. The Thunder likely won't drift like they did during the Spurs' decisive 20-5 run, going 2-of-7 from the field.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should be more effective than their combined 15-of-40 shooting performance in Game 1.
If the Spurs get past the Thunder, then they'll likely confront the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The Heat might seem to many to be a tame NBA Finals opponent with Chris Bosh's injury and the latency of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in the latter part of last year's NBA Finals.
However, James showed against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals that he won't lay down in this postseason. His remarkable 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in Game 4 emphasized that point.
The Spurs will confront James if they have to face a series against the Heat.
For now, they're concerned with the triple threat that is Durant, Westbrook and James Harden. If they can get through this series victorious, they'd be pleased. To sweep the Thunder would be nice for them, but it wouldn't make them any stronger going into the NBA Finals.
They'd have to start it all over with a whole new set of matchups with four more games to earn before being able to hoist the trophy.
If the Spurs sweep the NBA Finals after knocking off the Thunder in four straight games, then it would be a spectacle to behold.
A first-ever NBA champion that runs the table in the playoffs. Now might not be the time to search for meaning, but fans would like Duncan to pause for a moment amidst a blizzard of confetti to gain perspective on the moment.
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