The NBA team hasn't lost a game since April 11th. Are the Finals already over?
In early May, I debated the legitimacy of this year's eventual NBA champion in a roundtable discussion with Hampton Stevens and Patrick Hruby. To open our discussion, Patrick opined that the lockout-shortened season and rash of injuries to star players could lead to a paper tiger winning the title in June:
All of this has me worried. Worried that the league is on the verge of crowning a bogus champion, akin to the 1999 San Antonio Spurs.
That was three weeks ago. Thanks to Tim Duncan and the 2012 San Antonio Spurs, this year's champion might just be the most legitimate in NBA history.
The Spurs last lost a game on April 11, when Lakers center Andrew Bynum embarrassed the San Antonio big men with a 30-rebound performance in a 98-84 Los Angeles win. Since then, the Spurs have steamrolled their opposition, winning their games by an average 14.9 points. All but five of the 20 consecutive victories—tied for third-most in NBA history—have been by double digits.
With a healthy Manu Ginobili back in the lineup at last, the Spurs bulldozed their way to the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason. But most fans and predictors (and Vegas) favored the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs. Then San Antonio won six of their first seven games of the playoffs by at least 10 points. First came a sweep of the Utah Jazz that looked like an extremely large predator trapping and savaging a helpless, lame member of a herd. Amazingly, the Spurs were even better against the Chris Paul-led Clippers, despite a strong offensive series from Blake Griffin. The coup de grace was Game 3, when the Spurs fell behind by 24 in the first half, outscored the Clippers 80-46 the rest of the way, and cruised to an "easy" win.
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San Antonio struggled in Game 4 against the Clippers and Game 1 against the Thunder, but found a way to win both games. The Thunder win was championship-caliber. The Spurs outscored Oklahoma City 39-27 in the fourth after coach Gregg Popovich spurred his team to action with the instantly famous rallying cry: "I want some NASTY!" Ginobili scored 11 points in the quarter, the Spurs won, and hundreds of Spurs fans showed up for Game 2 with homemade "I Want Some Nasty" T-shirts.