What We Learned About the San Antonio Spurs During Western Conference Finals

Garrett JochnauCorrespondent IIJune 3, 2013

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 27:  Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks wtih Tony Parker #9 in the first quarter while taking on the Memphis Grizzlies during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the FedExForum on May 27, 2013 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The season goes on, and the success of the San Antonio Spurs remains unrelenting.

Now, after sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals, the veteran squad is just four wins away from the franchise's fifth title. Considering the Spurs' abundance of prosperity in the rounds leading up to the NBA Finals, those four wins seem extremely probable.

Though currently undecided, the East's representatives will have their work cut out for them, as the Spurs not only appear extremely dangerous, but also well rested and motivated in an unparalleled fashion.

Their sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies only confirmed the notion that San Antonio is prepared to take on any competitor, in addition to a handful of other lessons that should not be ignored as the NBA's most prestigious event draws closer.


Tiago Splitter is Ready

San Antonio waited multiple seasons for its 2007 first-round draft pick to emerge from overseas, and now, in the fourth year of his career, the wait is beginning to pay off.

In the beginning of the season, Splitter's consistency was questioned. His 2011-12 campaign was a step in the right direction, but the big man's aptitude for "falling asleep" on the court ensured that his doubters were many.

Despite a shaky preseason, Splitter recovered quickly, earning himself a spot in the starting rotation while silencing his critics.

Though he eclipsed his career averages, Splitter's 2012-13 seasonal stats were anything but eye-catching. His impact, however, was huge.

For the first time in a long while, Tim Duncan had a post partner capable of drawing significant focus who also could defend the opposition's stronger inside player. As a result, Duncan's workload was less harsh, a primary reason for his resurgence. 

Splitter was scrutinized heavily leading up to the Western Conference Finals, as the public recognized the significance of proficient post play from San Antonio's end.

Featuring Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, Memphis' big-man tandem was among the league's best, and if the Spurs were to have a fighting chance against their opponent, it was clear that Splitter would have to step up defensively.

To say he simply stepped up would be an understatement. Splitter didn't merely keep Zach Randolph in check; he shut him down.

Splitter's defense was highly praised, and while his offense was merely adequate, his contributions were a major facet leading to San Antonio's dominance.

Should the Indiana Pacers emerge as the Eastern Conference representative, the Spurs will once again have to oppose a talented, two-headed post tandem. Both David West and Roy Hibbert are capable of hurting San Antonio in the post. If called upon, Splitter is ready to ensure that no such damage is done.

If the Miami Heat find their way into the finals, Splitter's workload should be easier. However, he'll remain an important asset to the team's title run and will be ready for whatever challenge presents itself.


Manu Ginobili is Inconsistent

If we learned anything from Manu Ginobili's performance against the Grizzlies, it is that the two-time All-Star is still incredibly inconsistent—but it might not matter.

Of course, one cannot assert that the unpredictable nature of the veteran shooting guard is welcomed; however, the impact of his fluctuating execution will not be the make-or-break factor of the Spurs' 2013 title run.

When he's on, he's on. Spurs fans were delighted by Ginobili's vintage performance in Game 3. His 19 points were a primary factor in the victory, as were his seven rebounds and five assists.

Just two days later, Ginobili proved that he was capable of doing the exact opposite. Ginobili scored just six points (on .167 shooting, no less). He turned the ball over frequently, to the point where Spurs fans held their collective breath every time the declining star touched the ball.

Despite his poor performance, one thing stayed constant from Game 3: The Spurs won.

Ginobili is no longer depended on to carry the squad. That job is well maintained by Tony Parker and Duncan.

Ginobili is more of a luxury, though he can still be the deciding factor as to why the team emerges victorious from time to time. However, the team won't look towards him as the savior during struggles, and while his bench contributions are always pivotal, the Spurs can win even on an off night, which cannot be said for other players on the team.

Overall, Ginobili let it be known that inconsistency should still be expected, and while he is capable of turning in a 20-point throwback performance on any given night, he could very well be a non-factor on others.


Tony Parker is the Real Deal

Tony Parker is a superstar.

Spurs fans have known this for a long time, but even the harshest of naysayers can no longer deny Parker's position in upper echelon of players.

He entered the realm of superstardom last year, and by 2013, he solidified himself as the team's unquestioned go-to-guy.

If possible, his showing in the Western Conference Finals increased his status even more.

Every night, Parker seemingly upped his performance from the game before. He began the series with 20 points in the Spurs' blowout victory.

In Game 2, he struggled on the scoring front but dropped 18 assists in the team's win. He returned to his scoring ways in Game 3, scoring 26 points despite an unprecedentedly awful start to the game.

His Game 4 performance put the rest to shame. Scoring 37 points on over 70 percent shooting, Parker wowed the world as he closed out the Grizzlies, earning his ticket to the NBA Finals. He hit nearly every shot down the stretch, confirming his status as not only the team's top player, but also as one of the league's best.

Jalen Rose even tabbed him as the Association's third-best player.

Whether or not his statement is a bit overblown is subject to debate. However, Parker is undoubtedly the second-best player remaining in the playoffs, and he will be the root of all success that comes the Spurs' way in the final few games.