Like them or not -- and how can anybody hate such a class organization? -- you gotta give it up to the San Antonio Spurs. The game they just played against the Houston Rockets -- no slouches -- was something to behold. It was the series clincher and the Spurs move on, while the Rockets go home.
Which isn't far, given the drubbing NBA fans just witnessed that happened in Houston. The Spurs put a 39 point beat down on the Rockets in their own house. Oh my. Nobody saw that coming.
Both teams had previously won on the other's court and Game 5 had gone to overtime in San Antonio. It appeared to be a neck and neck series indeed. Hard fought throughout.
If anything, the Spurs were at a distinct disadvantage. Besides playing on the road -- where Houston is formidable at home -- they had recently lost the services of guard Tony Parker. A torn quadriceps tendon ended his season and, given his age, might well spell the end of his illustrious NBA career.
If that weren't bad enough, the always quiet and humble, but quite lethal Kawhi Leonard had twisted his ankle in the previous game and wasn't available either. Many have said Leonard is the best two-way player in the game today. People tend to think of him as a "little guy", but he's really not. Leonard stands 6 foot 7, just an inch short of that Lebron guy, and an inch taller than that Michael guy of old. From scoring, dishing out assists, rebounding, ball handling, and playing tenacious defense on the other team's best player, KL can pretty much do it all. But he doesn't seek the limelight like so many other NBA prima donnas. Leonard just quietly gets it done in a large way.
After the nip and tuck Game 5, most would have thought Game 6 at Houston, with the Spurs down two of their best players, would be a blow-out the other way.
But twas not to be. Quite the opposite happened, no doubt to the surprise and chagrin of Houston and their fans.
So yep, ya gotta give it up to Coach Pop and his Spurs. A lot of guys saw way more minutes than they normally would, but came through in a spectacular fashion. Very few turnovers. Always finding the "open" guy with a crisp passing game. Knocking down the "open looks" when the multiple passes got the ball to a shooter. Crashing the boards and allowing Houston few second shots. A swarming, quickly switching defense that made things difficult for the Rockets all night. Holding James Harden and Co. to a mere 75 points on their home floor was quite a feat indeed. Especially without Kawhi Leonard available to guard him.
In the end, it was "Spurs basketball" at its finest. Coach Pop has to be proud of the job his guys turned in shorthanded.
But it doesn't get any easier. Next up for the Spurs are the Golden State Warriors. The Oakland crew has yet to lose a single playoff game this post-season, and will have home court advantage in the western conference finals.
San Antonio will be a heavy underdog. And while Parker is most definitely out, nobody knows for sure if Leonard will be ready when the next round starts in a few days. And even if so, how effective he might be, if still a bit gimpy.
Sure, even since the beginning of the season, all the "experts" have predicted Golden State and the Cleveland Cavaliers were destined to meet for the third time in a row in the Finals. It might well come to that. The Cavs await the winner of the Boston/Washington series and will be heavily favored to dispatch either of them as well, even though the Celtics would have home court advantage.
But how can anybody root against the Spurs? They lost Tim Duncan to retirement. The Warriors added super-star Kevin Durant through free-agency. Parker's gone and Leonard's a maybe.
In the absence of head coach Steve Kerr, still out with back problems, Golden State has plugged in Mike Brown, pretty much a loser every other place he's been (see multiple firings). What could they possibly have been thinking bringing this clown on board as a #2?
On the other hand, Gregg Popovich has not only proven himself to be a championship winning coach, but also the epitome of class over the last couple decades. Has there ever been anybody, anywhere, at any time, that has had a single bad word to say about this man? Not that yours truly can remember.
Class will do that for you over time.
So here's wishing him and his Spurs the best.
But they're certainly going to have their hands full with the Warriors over the next couple weeks.
Those guys are really, REALLY good.
They're SUPPOSED to win.
But who, other than the Golden State faithful, wouldn't be tickled if the Spurs somehow found a way to pull off a huge upset and get back to the Finals?
Betcha Cleveland (their likely opponent) would also agree. Given a choice between a depleted Spurs team and a healthy Warrior one looking for revenge after what happened in last year's Finals, you just KNOW which one they'd rather face.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves.
Like they've long said, that's why they play the games.
Bring it on and let's see what happens.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, yours truly is going to call a time out and officially tune out the NBA. That's when the Indy 500 hits in a couple weeks.
Basketball, schmasketball. Some things are just more compelling to watch. If you can't do 225 MPH all the way around the track, don't even bother to show up? These guys and gals make NASCAR look like a slow motion bumper-car contest. This is SERIOUS racing. And only once a year.
No way would I ever miss that, though I no longer have the fortitude to spend a few days down there partying and running amok in the infield like I used to during the race itself. It's big screen only of late.
Geez, those were the days indeed.