It was 1970, Game 7 on the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks. Willis Reed had a torn muscle in his right thigh, and it was uncertain if he could play through the injury. During warmups, Reed trotted out onto the floor and the Madison Square Garden erupted. Even the Lakers stopped warming up to watch Reed run out onto the floor. The emotional battle had been won before the game even started, and the Knicks won the series. We could see something similar to that happen this year.
The San Antonio Spurs locked up the 7 seed and set up a date with the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. All season long, the story around the Spurs has been about the mystery around Kawhi Leonard. Is he hurt? Is he healthy? Does he even want to play? Is there a rift between him and the front office? We don't know, every story around the situation has been purely speculation. Maybe this was the plan all along, to purposely set themselves up against a Steph Curry-less Warriors and a 100% healthy Leonard.
It's Game 3 of the series and the Spurs have managed to get a split on the road. Both teams are warming up, and out of the tunnel comes Kawhi Leonard. The crowd loses its mind, Twitter explodes, and Kevin Durant forgets his grocery list right there on the spot. In his 9 games that he did play this season, he averaged 16.2 points per game and had a 52% efficient field goal percentage. His scoring ability will raise the level of play for a Spurs team that has struggled to find buckets over the course of the season. The Spurs are 1st in the NBA in opponents points per game, and they will live by the mantra that defense wins championships. Kevin Durant will fold under the pressure of having to carry the scoring load for his team and the Spurs will knock off the Warriors in 6 games.
Anthony Davis proved to be too much for Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, which set the Spurs up for a matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans. Greg Popovich has always been a genius with how he defends against teams with superstars. He would send doubles on Kobe, he would force Lebron to shoot jumpers, he wouldn't allow Steve Nash to penetrate and kick out. In this case, he will force Davis to share the basketball and make his teammates beat them. The Spurs have some of the best defensive players in the NBA in Dejounte Murray, Lamarcus Aldrige, and Pau Gasol. Guys like E'Twuan Moore and Darius Miller will have to put up way too many threes and it will be all for nothing. The Spurs will win in 5 games and Rajon Rondo will join the NBA on TNT crew.
The Western Conference Finals will set up another coaching duel between Mike D'antoni and Poppovich when the Spurs face the Houston Rockets. If we flashback to last year, the Spurs were outmatched in terms of talent especially with the Rockets having the best player on the court in James Harden, but it still didn't matter. The Spurs won in 6 games, and D'antoni lost yet another series to Pop. This year will be no different. Patty Mills and Danny Green will shoot the lights out from three point land and will have an answer for every punch the Rockets throw at them. The Spurs commit the least amount of fouls in the NBA, which is huge against a team who leads the league in free throws attempted per game. Harden and Chris Paul will cry to the refs every night and will get tossed in the final game of the series. The Spurs will win in 6 game and will hold the Rockets to under 100 points in every win of the series.
Reaching the NBA Finals is something the Spurs are used to, with more than half of their roster made up of champions. They will face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for Lebron's 4th Finals going against the Spurs. This time, Coach Popovich will allow Lebron James to get all his stats, and force the Cavs new reupholstered roster to beat them. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will turn back the clock and come up clutch for the Spurs like its 2005. Rudy Gay and Kyle Anderson will play key minutes and will average double digit scoring against the worst defense in the NBA. Kawhi will do what he once did to Lebron, and beat him in the NBA Finals, this time in 7 games. Lebron James will win the NBA Finals MVP even though his team lost, and will take his talents to The Alamo over the summer.
Coach Pop is the GOAT. don't @ me...
Just a man trying to make the most of his time on this planet.