SAN ANTONIO — Maybe someday outside the walls of the Alamo the Spurs will get their just due.
It’s a long shot, but maybe.
Dismantling a Heat dynasty over the last week should be impressive enough to put the Spurs in the same sentence as the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls among dominant NBA Finals performances.
Not only because of their opponent, but the ease with which they’re doing it. Basketball 101, played at a level that resembles watching a surgeon. Each pass better than the last, each offensive set perfectly executed.
“Beautiful basketball,” the Heat’s Dwyane Wade called it after his team’s 107-86 loss Thursday in Game 4.
Yes, beautiful, but at the same time, lethal for a Heat team trying to win its third consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“I just think we’re playing Spurs basketball,” Tony Parker said of the clinic being displayed on a nightly basis. “We’re just moving the ball, and we’re just playing the way we’ve been playing all season. We’d like to do a ‘good to great’ [by making] the extra pass, and we preach that, and right now we’re clicking.”
But even Parker’s comments cheapen what the Spurs really are.
The perception of these Finals is team basketball beating superstar athletes. It’s easy; it fits in a nice box. But it’s inaccurate. It’s superstars playing team basketball against superstars who aren’t.
It’s easy to forget the resume of the Spurs’ Big Three, so let’s review. There’s speculation that they tanked the 1996-97 season after David Robinson was hurt in the sixth game to try to earn the luck of the lottery and draft Tim Duncan. However it happened, they got him. Now, with the Spurs leading the series 3-1, Duncan is on the cusp of his fifth NBA title.
He was a Hall of Famer five years ago. He’s only building his list of credentials, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leader in postseason minutes and Magic Johnson for the most playoff double-doubles.
Then there’s Tony Parker. He’s looking for title No. 4, but until the last few seasons, he rarely was recognized as one of the elite point guards in the league. He used to be score first, pass second, so his creativity in running an offense was somewhat blurred. But the last four years have gone the other way.
The elite point guards have been Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose — when he had two good knees. Now throw in Stephen Curry and John Wall. Their combined rings: zero.
Finally, there’s Manu Ginobili, perhaps one of the best bench players in the last decade. He also is looking for his fourth championship.
Throw in a Hall of Fame coach in Gregg Popovich and some extra motivation for their meltdown in the Finals last season, and just like that the Heat are on the edge of the cliff, about to be nudged off.
“I just think the loss was tough,” Parker said of the Spurs’ 2013 Finals loss to the Heat. “Every time you go to the NBA Finals and you don’t win, it’s tough. It was a great motivation.
“We just have to think about last year. We don’t need more motivation than that.”
The Spurs are far from flashy. Their championships have been somewhat spread out, but maybe that’s even more impressive. Sustained greatness scattered among the Lakers and Heat runs, but make no mistake, still greatness.
Maybe someday it will be a little more acknowledged.