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Old-school Spurs earn extra measure of respect in defeat.

Jun 21, 2013, 1:43 AM EST

Youth may ultimately have been served, but age earned a lot of respect.

Yes, the younger and more athletic core of the Miami Heat won another NBA title, but the older core of the San Antonio Spurs reminded everyone just how beautiful well played team basketball can look like. And how far it can take you. They reminded everyone what a great organization looks like. They no doubt have Hall of Fame players on the roster, but it really works because those guys play their roles just like everyone else. They are a coach’s dream.

They remind us of why we love the game — not the dunks and the ankle-breaking crossovers, but the extra pass and the smart cut. Why we love basketball the sport, not just it’s parts.

Yet somehow and all too often, the Spurs get overlooked. They get counted out. “They’re too old, this is the year it all fall apart.”

Despite San Antonio’s four titles from 1999 to 2007, somehow we tend to look right past the Spurs these days. They are not the sexiest team in the room and too often as fans we focus too much on players and teams who haven’t accomplished 1/10th of what San Antonio has.

However, in these Finals they reminded us they were one of the best. Even in defeat.

“That was the toughest series we have ever been in,” Heat coach Erik Speolstra said.

“For our part, I couldn’t love our guys more,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “What they accomplished this year is something nobody would have ever expected. And they showed a lot of mental toughness and a lot of good play to get where they got. And I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

What the Spurs did for much of this series — and almost did in Game 7 — is withstand the runs of the Heat. San Antonio showed real mental toughness. Miami’s athleticism is too much for every other team in the league for stretches, yet the Spurs never wilted like everyone before them. The Heat tried to get runs going in Game 7 — Popovich said LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played Hall of Fame games — but each time the Spurs answered. Until at the closing moments of the last two games their legs just had nothing left.

Yet don’t discount that they were there, right in it.

Tim Duncan had 24 points and 12 rebounds just two days after a 30-point showing. He torched Chris Bosh with counter moves and reminded everyone he is the greatest power forward ever. Manu Ginobili played much better than his game 6, with 18 points, but he had couple key turnovers late. Tony Parker was clearly slowed.

More than their stars, the Spurs front office always finds the guys who can step in and step up. There was 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard scoring 19 points while having to cover LeBron. Danny Green had huge games earlier in the series. Gary Neal hit some big shots, including a ridiculous banked three pointer in Game 7. I’m sure he called bank on that, but this is not a game of H-O-R-S-E.

By the end of Game 7 the Spurs were gassed. It was obvious. Parker had to sit; Duncan missed a bunny to tie the game. Their legs were gone and Miami’s weren’t.

“Well, I thought they gave everything,” Popovich said. “That was a tough Game 6. And I think they showed a lot of poise, a lot of mental toughness to come back today and play as hard as they did.

“I don’t think we played very well, but we played hard. We gave it everything we had. They did a pretty good job of forgetting what we let go in Game 6.”

A number of Spurs players after the game talked about Game 6, where they led by 10 points to start the fourth quarter and by 5 with: 28 seconds left. That’s the game that they felt they let slip away (they did). That’s very understandable. A bounce here, a break there and they could have been celebrating.

But it was not to be.

Right after a loss like this one, saying they earned a new measure respect sounds a little hollow. But it’s not. This is one of the great teams, great core groups of its era. In an age of lob for dunks making the highlights, the Spurs showed everyone what good, clean basketball looks like and why it is most likely to take you all the way to the NBA Finals.

The Spurs were not flashy, they were just smart and tough, with a nice mix of chemistry on the side.

We should appreciate that for how rare and special it is. We should give the Spurs their due.

  1. dolphindubs - Jun 21, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    Hats off to the Spurs.

    Then I pick those hats up and throw them again for the Heat.

    • hehateme2 - Jun 21, 2013 at 7:50 AM

      True… hat tip to the Spurs. They gave us a crazy good Finals. But in the end, there can only be 1… HEAT WORLD CHAMPS AGAIN!!

  2. edweird0 - Jun 21, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    Best article you’ve written all year, Kurt.

  3. breastfedted - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:06 AM

    David Stern’s script will be nominated for an Emmy

    • badintent - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:10 AM

      Under soap opera. or comedy . take your pick. Ride away Dave, head straight to the Knosher Deli for a big 3 decker sandwich.Wolf’s on 54th street.

  4. itsonlyaspeedbump - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    Spurs and Coach Pop = Class

    If I’m building an all-time starting 5, Lebron James may make it over Larry Bird someday for the 3-spot. But Duncan has the 4-spot on lock. I don’t care about the missed layup. That man balled tonight, and this entire series, and for his entire Hall-of-Fame career.

  5. canehouse - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:16 AM

    What a pressure cooker in the AAA tonight… hats off to the Spurs and their fantastic base of classy fans. We are so used to the classless knick fan base down here (not saying all Knicks fans… just the ones that are dwn here)… Spurs fans have to be the best of the best! Tough loss for them and they handled it with class.

  6. longtallsam - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    Anyone who doesn’t enjoy the Spurs style of basketball, just doesn’t know what good basketball is.

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 21, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      Fair enough.

      But how awful was Ginoboli the last two games. Dude was a turnover machine.
      Retire man, just retire.

  7. funktron2x - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    This Spurs fan is sad as hell right now, but Pop said it perfectly. I feel lucky as hell to be a lifelong Spurs fan, and it goes way beyond the success. So much love for these guys. And major props to the Heat and LBJ. This was the finest series of playoff basketball I’ve ever seen. No cheap crap, no hate between the teams, nothing but balls-out effort, sweet execution and teams that clearly respect each other at the highest of levels. Congratulations to you Heat fans. Enjoy the hell out of this, your team earned it.

    • rawgator06 - Jun 21, 2013 at 4:54 AM

      This Spurs team showed more heart than almost any team I have ever watched. They managed to get through the Western Conference gauntlet and were one game away from winning. I might be a Heat fan, but this series was 20 seconds away from going the other way and both teams showed why they were champions
      /For the NBAs sake, hopefully Duncan and Parker make another deep run next year

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Jun 21, 2013 at 7:34 AM

      All props to the Spurs for their total class after it was all over (not unexpected, of course). I really hope we find out what Tim said to LeBron. Tim had said something like “It will be your league – thanks for letting us win one now” after San Antonio – Cleveland. Was last night sort of a follow-up on that? Sometimes the side stories really matter more than the game itself.

    • heat256 - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:03 AM

      They have earned my respect. They may not be flashy, but they are well coached, well disciplined, and play the game the right way. I knew they’d give the Heat a major test, and the series did not disappoint. Of course I am happy they won, but if they lost, it would have been to a better team.

    • azarkhan - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      “No cheap crap, no hate between the teams, nothing but balls-out effort, sweet execution and teams that clearly respect each other at the highest of levels”

      Totally agree. It’s clear that the players and coaches for both teams have the utmost respect for each other. I don’t think there was a technical foul called in the entire series. Superb basketball through out.

    • miamatt - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      @funktron2x, your comment is almost perfect. Had the Spurs won the series, I couldn’t have done anything other than tip my cap to a worthy champion. I know the heartbreak- I was starting to feel the first pangs myself as I hyperventilated late in game 6. But sports are absurd, and the wins mean so much because the losses hurt that much.

      I really believe both teams displayed the heart of a champion in this series, this was like Celtics-Lakers in the 80s, where you just can’t fathom that one of these teams has to lose. The Spurs pushed Miami to the absolute brink, and that is what the finals are supposed to be about.

      • badintent - Jun 22, 2013 at 3:34 AM

        Bosh is softer than a jellyfish . Chandler would have owned him all series. Birdman starts next year.You know that when Jimmy Kimmel has Metta on his show instead of Poshy, that is the ultimate insult,

  8. BigBeachBall - Jun 21, 2013 at 3:10 AM

    The last 30 seconds of game 6 deserves nobodies respect. They were legit champions until that last 30 seconds… The same two teams should be in the finals next year minus ginobly…

  9. mungman69 - Jun 21, 2013 at 5:15 AM

    Yeah, I didn’t think the Spurs would have anything left in the tank.

  10. edwardemanuelson - Jun 21, 2013 at 6:29 AM

    Once again, the Spurs deserve a lot more respect than they’ll ever get from the media and fans. Will they get it? Doubtful.

  11. redbaronx - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Great comments Kurt and funktron, and I agree 100%. The Spurs went well beyond playing a great series. They showed what teamwork, dedication, determination, and basic fundamental basketball can do. This might be the last run of the Spurs, but I think every basketball fans (with the exception of some Heat fans) really appreciated what they did.

    I have to admit I have more respect for the Heat too. I thought they would fold despite all of their advantages, and I think they were pushed to reach another mental level.

    Some Finals I forget right after it’s over. This one? I’m going to remember this series for a long time. Hats off to both teams for a great display of basketball!

  12. omniusprime - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    I knew that only the super sports pundit moron Kurt Helin could write such garbage about the total loser Spurs. I remember some moronic sports pundit saying a few months ago that the over-the-hill gang was the only team that could beat the Heatstroke. I said he was an idiot and I was proved correct. The pathetic Spurs only got to the Finals because the OKC Blunder lost Westbrook and the Lakers lost Kobe.

    The Heatstroke aren’t good enough to carry the Laker’s jock straps, much less be champions. Sure shows how the NBA has sunk in team talent when a pathetic team like the Heatstroke can win back-to-back. A shame that both loser teams couldn’t end up losing, neither deserved to win.

    Go Lakers!!! Go Kobe!!!

  13. runthepicketfence - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Ahhh, if only Kawhi could shoot a free throw. But wait – he shot 82.5% from the free throw line this year!!!! I hope that brings him some small measure of comfort this off season as he see’s photos of the Heat hugging the O’brien trophy.

    The kid is a great talent for the Spurs, but this is how he will be remembered. When I say “Nick Anderson” what is the first thing that comes to mind?

    • azarkhan - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      You have no idea what you are writing about. Kawhi Leonard had an outstanding series and is destined for greatness. You, on the other hand, are merely another example of what the word “petty” means.

      • runthepicketfence - Jun 21, 2013 at 10:36 AM

        Listen, if Duncan drops 56 points, grabs 14 rebounds and has 11 assists in game seven, but misses a free throw to win the game how do you remember him? You say Duncan had a miracle game, but ….

        I don’t dispute the fact that Leonard was an integral part of the Spurs success. Call me petty, but any “greatness” Kawhi manifested in this series will always have a footnote that will read “but, he choked when his team needed him most.”

      • miamatt - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:35 PM

        Seriously, I thought Kawhi Leonard almost single-handedly kept the Spurs in the game for stretches of the fourth quarter last night.

        When somebody says “Kawhi Leonard” I’ll think “fierce competitor with a great future ahead.”

    • bougin89 - Jun 21, 2013 at 4:47 PM

      Fail. Loads of fail.

  14. spursareold - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    Bla, bla, bla. The media will be out in full force next fall, still beating that tired old “Spurs are boring” drum.

    • duffynmu - Jun 21, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      I’m a fan from Wisconsin, where our UW Badgers team tends to focus on defense and teamwork. When they play in the NCAA, the announcers are upset because they aren’t ‘exciting’ and ‘flashy’, but ‘plodding’. Some of us appreciate defense and actually seeing plays being run, not just one-on-one post ups with the superstars.
      I admit to pulling for the Spurs, but I will give LeBron his due – he hit a wide variety of shots Thursday night, and led his team to the title.

  15. 16x8equal49ers - Jun 21, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    “David Stern’s script will be nominated for an Emmy” breastfedted

    Touché. Hahaha, NBA sometimes seems so written you can predict whats gonna happen you know. Is basketball fixed like soccer was uncovered last yr?

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Jun 21, 2013 at 11:55 AM

      I see. Someone scripted CB to grab the rebound in traffic in Game 6 and kick it out to a backpedalling Ray for a 3 with 5 seconds to go. Got it.

      • Mike Long - Jun 21, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        Say what you will, but pooh-poohing the whole “scripted” idea will never get much traction from Kings fans. #2002WesternConferenceFinalsGame6

        I’ll still never forget Kobe breaking Mike Bibby’s nose late in that game when the Kings had the lead, and *Bibby* getting called for the foul.

    • 2late2matter - Jun 22, 2013 at 5:10 AM

      Will anyone ask Joey Crawford?

  16. majorhavoc83 - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    This was a *fantastic* series! The level of play from the Heat and the Spurs was tremendous. While I rooted for the Spurs to win, I knew the Heat would take this one. The whole “game 6 wheeling out the trophy” was the kiss of death for the Spurs, and it reminded me of the ’86 Mets/Red Sox game where the scoreboard was congratulating Boston before the game was done.

    Regardless, anyone that’s a fan of basketball had to love this series and the heart that both teams put out there. The Spurs have nothing to regret in their gameplay, and both teams put everything they had into the series.

    Now, I’m an old school Knicks fan, and having watched the level of skill and teamwork on display in this series showed me that my Knicks are far away from an NBA championship. I feel like I just watched the two best teams in the NBA, and everyone else was just a pretender to the throne.

    Congrats to the Heat *and* the Spurs, and thanks for a great series!

    • badintent - Jun 22, 2013 at 3:46 AM

      Knick fan ? Really ?. More like Bandwagon. My Knicks beat the Heat 3 of 4 games this past season by double digit leads. What were you watching , EA NBA Video ? The Knicks won over 50 games with an ancient team by great passing, great 3 shooting and a great power forward. sounds like the Heat formula don’t it ? I give you Felton is not Wade. Without Birdman going 17 for 17 against the Pacers, Heat don’t make it into the finals. Birdman X factor.
      boston still hasn’t gotten over that Met game. Still death threats against the first baseman.

  17. pinhead2 - Jun 21, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Moved to San Antonio in 1998 and it’s been a tremendous ride. Every year Spurs give you a shot – how many other teams can say that? And every year since 2007 they get written off as too old, too slow, just plain boring. Fact is, they are a model franchise – you never see players in the local crime blotters and you rarely see them on ESPN hi-light reels. They play team ball the way the game was designed, and Pop is a tremendous motivator with incredibly high basketball IQ.

    Sure hurt to live through that Game 6, but if this was the Spurs’ swan song, there’s no shame in going out like they did. Best Finals series Spurs have ever been in, and for any basketball lover this series was as good as the pro game ever gets. I could have watched a best of 15!!!

  18. womensbbfan - Jun 21, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    “They remind us of why we love the game — not the dunks and the ankle-breaking crossovers, but the extra pass and the smart cut. Why we love basketball the sport, not just it’s parts.”

    “In an age of lob for dunks making the highlights, the Spurs showed everyone what good, clean basketball looks like and why it is most likely to take you all the way to the NBA Finals.

    The Spurs were not flashy, they were just smart and tough, with a nice mix of chemistry on the side.”

    This is why I love watching the Spurs. It’s also why myself and a lot of other people watch and support the WNBA. The women play the game this way-nothing flashy, just good, clean basketball.

    In an age when style (dunks) counts over substance (passing, play execution, etc.), it’s nice to see teams play as a team and not as a superstar with “other people” on the court.

  19. jollyjoker2 - Jun 21, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Losers don’t get the girl! They get sloppy seconds. One freethrow they needed extra in game 6 and the young punk missed it to put them up by 6 with 27 seconds to go…… Game 7 was pretty much predictable. ….Lebron choked in game 6 and Miami got away with one.

  20. middy8484 - Jun 22, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    The spurs choked in game 6

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