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Spurs season ends in Oklahoma City

A franchise record 67 wins, a league tying best 40-1 at home, one of the most dominant defenses in NBA history. All of that could only get the San Antonio Spurs to the second round of the playoffs.

The best season in Spurs history came to a stunning and disappointing end last night as the Oklahoma City Thunder finished off a massive upset by beating the Spurs 113-99 in game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six years.

The Spurs did themselves in by getting outscored 42-12 for the final 16 minutes of the first half after taking a 19-13 lead late in the first quarter. By that point, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were shooting the lights out, and the Spurs seemed as disinterested as ever. When Durant hit a pullup three pointer with under 4 seconds left in the first half, the Thunder had a 55-31 halftime lead; the largest halftime deficit the Spurs have faced all season.

One of the biggest storylines of this offseason will be Tim Duncan. The 40 year old has a player option for the 2016-2017 season and many wondered if this was the final game of a legendary hall of fame career. Duncan started strong with 6 points but went quiet the rest of the first half. But it was him who got the Spurs back in the game. Down 91-65 after three quarters, Duncan led the charge as the Spurs fought back like champions do. His layup over Steven Adams cut the Thunders once 28 point lead down to 13, and the Spurs had a little momentum. But that was quickly lost after a steal by Oklahoma City which led to a Kevin Durant dunk. If this was his final game, he finished with 19 points on 7-14 shooting.

Another big story from this game will be Kawhi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge. Both are hailed as the future of the Spurs, but they struggled when it mattered most in game 6. Leonard scored 22 points and Aldridge had 18, but after scoring 79 points in the first two games, he was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter while Duncan was leading the Spurs comeback.

So how did Oklahoma City shock the world?

They simply played better.

After the Spurs blew the Thunder out of the AT&T Center with a 124-92 win in game 1, many thought it was going to be a long series. But the Thunder responded with a win in game 2; even though it will forever be remembered for one of the worst noncalls in the history of basketball, and from there they had all the momentum. Guys not named Durant and Westbrook stepped up. Steven Adams was a monster on the glass, Andre Roberson gave great defense, and when he wasn’t getting away with offensive fouls while inbounding the ball, Dion Waiters was making big shots down the stretch.

Because of that, a team with a rookie head coach, doubt about the future of its superstar, and a tendency to collapse in close games is heading to the Western Conference Finals, and a team that set a franchise record with 67 wins, tied the NBA record by going 40-1 at home, and had the best defense in the NBA this season isn’t.

Would the Spurs have beaten the Warriors? Unlikely, but they would have given their all just as they did in this series with Oklahoma City. I’ve said that noone is beating Golden State this year, but even if the Spurs had pushed the Warriors to seven games and lost, it would have been a step in the right direction, just as it was in 2013 when they lost to Miami and then came back the next year to win the title.

And while the 2016 season was a historic and record setting one for the Spurs, it won’t end with the championship. It’s not the first time a great Spurs season didn’t end with triumph. The last time OKC beat San Antonio in the playoffs, the Spurs were riding a 20 game win streak(final 10 of the regular season, first 10 of the playoffs). They had a 2-0 lead in the 2012 WCF on the Thunder before losing the final four games. 10 years ago next Sunday, the Spurs had a then record 63 win season, but it ended in heartbreak with a game 7 loss on their home floor to the Dallas Mavericks in overtime. We all know about 2004 by know, when the Spurs were 0.4 seconds away from putting a stranglehold on the Lakers in the semifinals before Derek Fisher made that impossible shot to turn the momentum in LAs favor.

While those playoff losses were devastating, some may argue that this could hurt the most. This was the best year that the Spurs have had in their history. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. It was supposed to end with a sixth NBA title, and if not that, a trip to the Western Conference Finals against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.

But now neither of those will happen, at least for 2016.

Now the question is how do the Spurs bounce back from this? The future is obviously in good hands with Leonard and Aldridge, but what if Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire? The Spurs are reportedly set to go after Kevin Durant and Mike Conley in free agency, and they could possibly add Pau Gasol as well(unlikely but we’ll see). Athleticism will also be a factor. The Thunder were just too quick on the floor last night and the Spurs didn’t seem adjusted to it. That will be a key if the Spurs are going to be just as good next year as they were this year.

The “Chase” for seis is over, until next year.

Chase Risman



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