NBA Playoffs 2011: End of an Era as Lakers', Spurs' Dominance of West Is No More
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For only the second time since the 1998 season, the Los Angeles Lakers nor the San Antonio Spurs will be playing in the Western Conference Finals.
In the past 12 years, the Spurs and Lakers have not only dominated the West, they have dominated the NBA itself.
Twelve years, 11 NBA Finals Appearances and nine NBA titles between the two teams (Spurs have four, Lakers have five) speaks volumes about the organizations, their stability and ability to transition from generation to generation of players all the while, the rest of the league tried to play catch-up.
From Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson and Tim Duncan to Paul Gasol, Lamar Odom, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, both the Spurs and Lakers have been able over the years to pass the torch to younger players.
There was Rick Fox, Bruce Bowen, Brent Barry and Ron Artest, gritty players who in playoff time came up huge.
Throw in Robert "Big Shot Rob" Horry, who helped both teams win a combined five NBA Titles and you have the makings of an NBA Dynasty.
Thirteen seasons, one head coach each, one centerpiece after another, role players, big shots, playoff series that tested the limits of both teams, the Spurs and Lakers have been the two best franchises in the league the last 13 years.
Six times in those 13 seasons, the two have squared off against one another, with usually the winner ending up in the NBA Finals.
Back in 1999, the Spurs swept the Lakers, closing out the final game at the Great Western Forum en route to their first NBA title.
From 2001 to 2004, they met every single postseason, the Lakers winning three of those four matchups.
In 2003, the Spurs ended the Lakers 3-peat en route to their second NBA title. In 2004, Derek Fisher's shot with .4 seconds left to play broke the back of the Spurs, as the Lakers ended what might have been the best Tim Duncan-lead Spurs team to never win an NBA title.
Their last playoff matchup was in 2008 and featured the memorable non-foul call against Derek Fisher on Brent Barry in Game 4. The NBA later ruled that a foul should have been called which would have given the Spurs a chance to win or tie with three free throws.
Thirteen years of domination has finally come to an end in the West. Younger, hungrier, stronger, quicker, faster and bigger, the West has finally caught up and surpassed the Spurs and Lakers.
In the end, one can only look back at the 13-year run both the Spurs and Lakers have put up with appreciation, the two most dominant teams in the NBA, are done, at least for this year.
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