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The title contending Spurs are dead. Long live the Spurs.

Apr 27, 2011, 11:45 AM EDT

San Antionio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four Getty Images

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
—Jim Morrison, The Doors

We’re going to miss the Tim Duncan era Spurs.

Yes, likely will get one more win in their first round series, Wednesday night at home. They are fully capable of that. But it will be fools gold — just like this entire season. This was the season the Spurs seemed to reinvent themselves as a savvy, offensively-focused team. A team that relied on two quick players out on the perimeter in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Tim Duncan could still do enough in the middle to make it work. The role players were better.

It didn’t work. Make no mistake, this series where the Memphis Grizzlies have pushed the Spurs around like a cat with a ball of yarn has signaled the end of the Duncan-era Spurs as a championship team.

Technically the era will linger on for another season or two before it’s broken up and sold for parts. But those seasons will feel a lot like a sadder version of the past couple seasons, where you had the feeling San Antonio was not a contender. On paper you thought they could recapture the magic of the 2007 title run, but when you watched them play you were not so sure.

Now you watch and you’re sure. It’s not happening.

Even the brilliant Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell recognizes it. There was one play in this series, where the usual spark of the team Ginobili didn’t even try to close out on a corner three where it hit them this team is no longer that title team.

Those title teams defended like mother wolverines protecting their young. These Spurs — all season long — have played just enough defense to get by.

We bought into the fool’s gold that was the 61 wins and the up-tempo offense that came out of the gate on fire this season. We wanted to believe, because the Duncan era Spurs were not boring — as some uniformed columnists wanted to say — they were pure, efficient basketball. They made the smart plays, the good basketball plays. Consistently. Every time down. They did the right thing and knocked down the look when they got it. If you love basketball you had to love the simple purity of their game.

But these Spurs do not play good defense. And in the payoffs, where they used to be the physical team that could push you around, now they are getting punked inside. Duncan is getting what he can out of his aging body, but DeJuan Blair just doesn’t have the size and Matt Bonner doesn’t bang. Tiaggo Splitter tried in Game 4 but it was too little, too late.

The Grizzlies look more like the title Spurs teams — they are controlling the paint, contesting shots on the wing and getting the offense from whatever matchup they can exploit (usually Zach Randolph against anyone).

Duncan looks his age now. He has all season but it was masked by tempo and wins, and we didn’t want to see it. But all season long when the Spurs ran into the league’s big front lines — like the Lakers — Duncan struggled. Memphis is big up front. Contenders always are.

Duncan has taken years of physical pounding in the post and he’s not the player he once was — still very good, but not dominant. And there is nobody anywhere near David Robinson’s quality around him in the post. He has no help.

The Spurs as contenders are done. The Grizzlies have put the nails in the top of that coffin. San Antonio may again win 50+ regular season games next season. There may be flashes of the old magic. But we know that they cannot sustain it for seven games against a quality opponent.

It’s over for the Spurs.

Someday all basketball fans hopefully will look back at their cool efficiency on the way to four titles and realize just how special those teams were.

But for now, for today, we’re just sad about he end of an era.

  1. grizzfan - Apr 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Too much is made about the Spurs age and not enough is made about the play of the Grizzlies. Before the playoffs started, nobody was talking about how the Spurs are done or that they were to old. So let me get this straight, after 82 games everybody thought the Spurs were great, but they go down 3-1 to the Grizz everybody thinks that they stink and can’t play. Give credit where credit is due, and those Grizzly players deserve the credit for their effort. Great Job Grizz, you earned it!!!!!!

    • grizz2202 - Apr 27, 2011 at 12:54 PM

      That’s so true! I think the Spurs would have ran at least 4 other West teams off the court in the first round, and everyone would be saying how “dominant” they look, and how those other teams just can’t hang tough with the “efficient play of the Spurs” and the “beautiful simplicity of their game”.

      The fact of the matter is the Grizzlies ran the Spurs off the court because of the Grizzlies efficient play. Because of the beautiful simplicity of the Grizzlies gameplan of getting the ball to the big men inside. The Grizz just match up well against the Spurs, and they are the better team. Unless you live in Memphis, you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA THAT THIS IS TRUE. But this is true.

      • passerby23 - Apr 27, 2011 at 1:34 PM

        I think the Spurs would be struggling against a lot of teams. It’s true, they ran into a bad matchup with Memphis, but I question that they would’ve been running other playoff teams off the court. What happens with the Spurs this summer?

      • lbcdeeznutz - Apr 27, 2011 at 3:22 PM

        Much love from the lakers fans. Give em hell in the next round. Hope you make it to the conference finals, where it could be Gasol vs. Gasol.

        BTW the lakers have won 5 championships in the Tim Duncan era, so it’s easy to get over this teams demise.

      • fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 27, 2011 at 7:11 PM

        @ all you Grizz fans out there: I can empathize and I understand where you guys are coming from. All those talk about the Spurs not being great anymore in this series instead of talking how great the Grizzlies are in this first-round match-up.

        Maybe it takes time AND CONSISTENCY. Probably even getting past round 2 into the WCF without even Pau would reinforce how significantly better your team became this season.

        If you recall the Warriors had the 1st seed Mavs choke in round one a few years back and yet nobody’s been talking about the Warriors as much as how people are talking about the Thunders.

        I won’t be surprised if your time will come when the Grizz would be truly relevant. Hopefully for you guys, this would be a breakout season.

        As for the Spurs, I still think that they still have a better chance to pull this off compared to other teams that would end up in this similar situation. Nothing against the Grizz, but if the Spurs somewhat snatch this thing, people won’t be saying that this was a choke by Memphis. It’s more likely that people will give credit to the Spurs’ experience.

        Cheers!

    • musilly - Apr 27, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      Not entirely true. Putting aside the fact that many intelligent fans–and Barkley haha–predicted that the Grizz would win out, you may have seen variants of the “Spurs are Done” as far back as last year’s playoffs, where David Thorpe did a video piece showing the decline in Duncan’s defensive abilities. Personally, I think they have another run if Splitter can develop into a defensive ace and their main guys can stave off significant further decline.

      • grizz2202 - Apr 27, 2011 at 3:00 PM

        I’ll admit that there have been reports of the Spurs demise for a while. And I really don’t want to take anything from the Spurs, nor take them for granted. They are an experienced team that “plays the right way” from top to bottom.

        I’m just pointing out that none of the recent stories are talking up the Grizz (yes, I’m a homer). They’re all framed in such a way to say “the Spurs are dead”, and giving the Grizz marginal praise for playing so tough. Having watched the Grizz play all season, this is no surprise to us Memphians.

        The Spurs lost games one and three because they’re old. They lost game four because the Grizz ran them off the court, which had less to do with their age and more to do with Memphis’ strong team play. While we may lack a LOT in the way of talent comparison, the Grizz played like the Spurs of old with TD and the Admiral in terms of teamwork in game four.

  2. cup0pizza - Apr 27, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    Hate the Spurs. Hate.

  3. chargerdillon - Apr 27, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    The Spurs championship run ended when Bruce Bowen retired.

  4. cordae - Apr 27, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    This isnt sad, they have a hell of a lot to look back on. So what if they break up lol They have 3 cool rings (Duncan 4) to smile over. They can retire happily if they want.

    I congratulate them, they’ve done what very few teams have. But they were soooooo boring. I think it was the uniforms…

  5. spurs210 - Apr 27, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    you can say we were sooooo boring but yet won 4 championships… what did your team do…. NOTHING. Grizzlies want to talk big as if theyve done something since 95 when they were an expansion coming out, Yes I give them credit they have done an awesome job on us but dont try to climb up on top of the mountain and talk like yall accomplished so much, I dont see no MVP’s, Championships, Divison Titles, Legends etc on yall’s resume all I see is 2011 team beating a 1 seeded team. WOW…. finally yall do something right. Only team I have alot of respect for no matter what is the Lakers… #24 Kobe Bryant… nobody can fade him in the NBA..

    Who cares if the Spurs cant pull it through, would of been nice to add another title but we gave it our best shot through out the season. im 31 years old and of course will never be 13 again and do the things i could at age 13 so be realistic and think Duncan should play like he once did back 5-7 years ago… There is no way!! SPURS ARENT DEAD

    • fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:30 AM

      And so what if the Spurs are “boring”? Seriously, with the Manu-ver and Parker around, I can’t say they’re really boring. Anyhoots, I rather be boring with 4 rings than the likes of LeBron – exciting and highlight reels but where are the blings?

      Should the Spurs lose this one, I respectfully salute TD and the rest of this San Antonio team. Been a great rivalry between the Spurs and the Lakers!

      • cordae - May 1, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        Lol shut up, all of that stupid complaining, I just congratulated them. I can say they’re boring all i want! Its my opinion. Getting all butthurt because your teams era is over….GET OVER IT…

      • fouldwimmerlaik - May 7, 2011 at 6:29 AM

        @cordae: You missed the whole point, doofus. True, you can say they’re boring all you want. And I’m saying “Big deal if they’re boring.” At least they got the rings unlike some flashy champion-wannabes.

        And for the record, I’m NOT even a Spurs fan. LOL!

  6. rapmusicmademedoit - Apr 27, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    on behalf of all Laker fans, I shed a tear.

    brooklyn Laker fan

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