by Mac Paquette | Staff Writer
It’s now the end of April, and the NBA playoffs are here once again. For the 17th year in a row, the San Antonio Spurs are in the playoffs led by the typical crew of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
However, over the past two years, with the slight decline in performance from Ginobili, the Spurs have watched Kawhi Leonard mature and take a significant role with the team, now arguably replacing Ginobili as the third most productive Spur.
With this larger role taken by the young forward, it has given the Spurs a different edge and playing style. Leonard’s athletic ability and defensive skill has proved particularly important during the playoffs. Since drafting Leonard three seasons ago, the two playoff appearances have resulted in a loss to the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, and a loss to the Heat in the NBA finals last year.
One may see the post-season trend, as since Leonard has been drafted the Spurs have moved progressively further each year. However, the loss in the finals last year could only mean one thing, that if the pattern were to continue, the San Antonio Spurs will be the NBA champions this year.
However, to end the seven year championship drought, it won’t be as easy as just coasting through the playoffs hoping that a pattern stays true. The western conference playoff bracket is stacked top to bottom with every team capable of winning their first series, unlike the east where it heavily favors the reigning back to back champion, the Miami Heat.
While Spurs fans don’t need any reminders of last year’s series against the Heat, it is apparent that the Heat have been struggling down the stretch, which leads many to believe that the western conference champion will take home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The path for the Spurs starts against their hated rival, the Dallas Mavericks. While the series has not been much of a rivalry the past few years due to the Spurs dominance, it will provide fans across the league with the NBA’s biggest rivalry in the south. While the Mavericks are heavily over matched by the Spurs, it would not be surprising to see them take a game in Dallas to push the series to five games.
It is not until the second round when the Spurs would start to face stiff competition. The winner of the Houston Rockets and the Portland TrailBlazers series would definitely prove to be a tough test for the Spurs, however I do see the Spurs advancing in a tough series to the western conference finals to face their newfound rival, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This matchup would be a rematch of the 2012 western conference finals where the young and talented Thunder won four games in a row after losing the first two in San Antonio. The loss was surprising and showed a possible changing of the guard of traditional western conference power. While the Spurs did not face the Thunder last year, the Spurs are eager to make up for the blunder that happened two years ago and will definitely want to prove that they are without a doubt, the best team in the west, and they will prevail in an epic clash of young talent and veteran leadership.
This will take the Spurs to the NBA finals for the second year in a row, where I see them playing a weaker Miami Heat team for it all. The Spurs will be determined to show that they are the premier team in the NBA once again and that the Miami Heat’s reign over the NBA is over. Ultimately, the Spurs will win in a five to six game series, retaking the O’Brien trophy back to the river city for the fifth time in the team’s history.