In just over 24 hours from now, one of the NBA's greatest dynasties will come to a shocking—albeit delayed—end.
Over the course of the past 10 seasons, five franchises have won an NBA championship. Three of those titles belong to the San Antonio Spurs, and with the addition of the 1999 championship, Tim Duncan and Co. appeared poised to add a fifth banner to their rafters, but that was before they ran into Kevin Durant. As the Spurs head into Wednesday night's Game 6—facing elimination against a Thunder team that's won three consecutive games in the series—the sobering reality of the end of the Spurs dynasty is beginning to set in.
Make no mistake about it, the Thunder are going to win on Wednesday and advance to its first NBA Finals in its young franchise history. Not only are the Spurs confronting their worst fears of finally wearing down, but they're just no longer a match for the up-and-coming Thunder. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka have subdued Duncan, Thabo Sefolosha has slowed down Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili hasn't been able to match the offensive output of Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.
Just a mere week ago, the Spurs held a 2-0 lead over the Thunder, who showed their age and inexperience, but it's clear that we are currently witnessing a passing of the torch. Twice this past season, the Spurs cut off an 11-game winning streak to give their aging roster rest, and now it's clear why the Spurs needed that rest. After riding a 20-game winning streak to their advantage over the Thunder, Oklahoma City has now won three consecutive games, including last night's Game 5 in San Antonio. As the Spurs prepare for an elimination game in one of the NBA's few arenas with a home court advantage, it's becoming increasingly clear that the NBA's last modern dynasty is on its way out.
Duncan is a free agent after this season, and while he's expressed interest in returning for another season in his historic career, those comments were made while the Spurs were riding the high of their 20-game winning streak, not after four straight losses to exit the playoffs. Ginobili has just one season left on his contract once these playoffs end, and the Spurs already entertained the idea of trading Parker—their most valuable player—last season. And even in the event that Duncan signs on for one last run and Parker and Ginobili stay put, the way in which they're leaving this year's playoffs is proof enough that the years of them raising championship banners together are over.
The Spurs can still be a regular season champion, one that rattles off multiple double-digit winning streaks and even earns No. 1 overall seeds. But in the fast-paced game every other night environment of the NBA playoffs, these Spurs are done—this season, and forever.