The 2012 NBA season has been one of 3 distinct phases for me. At the beginning of the year, I was completely on the Miami Heat bandwagon. The Dallas Mavericks made it publicly known that they were going to dismantle and then assemble another team around Dirk Nowitzki. So the Heat were the logical favorite to win this year’s NBA Championship since they lost to the Mavs in last year’s finals. Lebron James was destined to win his 1st (of many!?) championship in 2012, or so I initially thought.
As the lockout-shortened season played itself out, the Oklahoma City Thunder presented their own case for championship contention. After last year’s playoffs, it became clear that the Thunder weren’t far from it, but I thought they were another playoff series loss or two away from having enough experience. They have proven that they are one of the elite teams right now, not just in the future. Their play this season was good enough to make me re-think my pick for NBA championship favorites, and I jumped from the Heat to the Thunder. Lebron would have to wait a little longer to get to the mountain top.
That’s it. The Thunder were the team to beat, without a doubt. I was confident. They were confident. Done deal.
Then the playoffs started. And the San Antonio Spurs won the last 10 games of the season going in. Then they swept the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers. Now they have made the Thunder look silly for the 1st two games of the Western Conference Finals, and have extended their win streak to 20 games, good enough for the 3rd longest win streak in NBA history. I have dropped the Thunder like a bad habit. I had to.
Sure, it’s too late in the playoffs to switch picks. I won’t be able to gloat if the Spurs win it all. That’s unfortunate, but staying with the Thunder just wouldn’t be right. After seeing the Spurs play this postseason, I can’t predict the Thunder to win it all with any confidence.
We all knew how good the Spurs were. If you kept your eyes on the standings, you could see that they were neck-and-neck all season long with the Thunder for the Western Conference’s best regular season record. The Spurs outlasted OKC for that distinction, and they pulled it off in the typical stealthy San Antonio style.
It’s proper that the Spurs wear black, because they have always been the ninjas of the NBA. They are always there, but you never hear a peep from them.
Until the playoffs, I hadn’t had the opportunity to see a lot of Spurs games this season. Now that I’ve seen a few, I’m on the Spurs’ bandwagon all the way to the end of the road, no matter what happens from here on out. No matter which team wins the Eastern Conference, whether it be the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat, neither stands much of a chance against the Spurs.
Neither the Celtics nor the Heat matches up well against the Spurs. Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics have gotten a bit too long in the tooth, and their chances of getting past the Heat are almost nonexistent. Both teams are beat up, while the Spurs are healthy. And neither team has much of a bench. On the other hand, the San Antonio Spurs are deep with a good mix of experience, talent, intelligence, and energy. The Spurs are just too complete a team. Add the fact that this may be the last great ride of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and the great Tim Duncan, and you get a team that is not only stacked, but determined. Having the best coach in the NBA also helps. Gregg Popovich may have coached the best season of his already Hall of Fame-worthy career.
So I can now say, with complete confidence, that I feel the San Antonio Spurs are the team to beat this year.
That’s just it though, is another team going to beat them the rest of the year? Will the streak continue with 2 more sweeps? That’s highly unlikely, but it will be fun to stay tuned and see them try.
The Spurs may not win all of the games, but they will win the 2012 NBA Championship. The organization that should be a model for all other franchises will show the others how it should be done. And they will probably make it look easy.