The Playoff Diaries: the Spurs' “exquisite basketball”

John Atkinson

San Antonio Spurs

My god… what the hell happened?? After eight weeks that began in utter chaos, then slowly settled into something resembling predictability, the Finals have ended more suddenly than anyone expected, resolving into a picture of totally brutal, unassailable order: the Spurs are the champions and it wasn't close—actually, historically un-close, with a 70-point total margin of victory setting a new NBA Finals record.

My reaction to these past two games, holed up in the cool cave-pub of Hyperion Public with my stalwart fantasy bros, was basically one extended version of my reaction to The Manu Dunk, which was basically me pounding my seat and gleefuly-yet-confusedly yelling “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??”

The rapidity with which the Heat offense seemed to devolve to a stagnant, sub-Pacers level of futility was—like the classic DEVO video for “Jocko Homo”—deeply disturbing, even to a dedicated MIA-hater like myself. We knew the Spurs were an unparalleled offensive machine, but who expected their defense to so completely strangle the non-Lebron Heat offense from Game 3 onwards, especially when Darth Wade and the Bosh-oraptor had previously been having prettttty good playoffs up to this point?

And that Lebron guy was having a pretty great finals statistically—although, Christ, between the Cramp Game, the Greenface/Possible Diarrhea Game (will we ever know the gory details?), and finally the Sitting Out The Last Six Minutes to Cry Game, this had to have been one of the most extended humiliations of any Great Player having a Great Series ever, right?

Anyway, enough about the sad losers—wait, sorry, look at what these clowns wore to their sad postgame, lol:

– Let's close out this with some very heartfelt, positive emotions and the various extremely manful and inspiring ways in which a few of these Spursbros dealt with them:

KAWHI LEONARD:

After his career-best yet typically totally emotionless Games 3 and 4, I was sure Kawhi was either an android, an alien, or, most likely, an android designed by aliens. This Stuart Scott interview moment from the days before Game 5 is hilariously, mesmerizingly uncomfortable:

And yet. As Game 5 came to a close, and then again on the podium, and then again after being named Finals MVP, Kawhi starts wordlessly hulking out, heavy-breathing and straight up roaring at the sky like someone slipped him some of that Kevin Garnett. CATHARSIS!

Awesome “WIRED” moment at the end with Kawhi hugging Pop and explaining the feels: “Oh my god, it feels crazy.” Pop: “That's what it's all about, baby.” (All the more moving for those of us who just learned earlier on Father's Day that Kawhi's dad was killed at the family carwash in a still-unsolved shooting six years ago. Damn.)

TIM DUNCAN:

Despite all the changing of the guard talk, Timmy is still Batman to Kawhi's Robin, and watching Timmy let the mask drop and allow his happiness and RELIEF show through, in the embrace of his oldest and dearest teammates, was beyond moving.

– and the purity of his moments with his kids, talking about “all they've been through” (guessing he meant his painful divorce of last year and not the Playoff loss, but maybe a little of both?)—these shots of him carrying them out are on some serious action movie roll-the-credits type shit. REDEMPTION!

(It sure sounded like Timmy was leaning towards retirement during those interviews on the floor immediately after the game. Really, really hope he sticks around to defend the title, but if this is the end, what a goddamned perfect ending.)

COACH POP:

Unlike with Timmy and Kawhi, where you weren't really sure if they even experience normal human emotions at all, Pop has always been a volcano, brimming with volatile emotions but allowing only the occasional glimpse of the turmoil below via periodic eruptions. But what lies beneath! While seeing Timmy and Kawhi do their Spock-discovers-feelings routines was deeply moving, as a half-English, half-stiff-upper-lip type of dude, seeing Pop half-successfully struggle against this tidal wave of feelings, alone on the bench amidst the celebration, was what really really got me:

And the deep, existential solitude of his walk to the locker room—we are born alone, we die alone, and, hell, during some of life's most rewarding and perfect moments, we're alone, but some of us (Pop) are way more aware of it than others (Diaw and Belinelli, for instance).

The endgame and postgame was full of these ultra-real moments, also love Manu's emotional embrace of his kids, so many good hugs really.

Would it be pretentious to call this Spurs victory, a mere sportsgame… 'ennobling'? Maybe. Would it be… objectively true? Absolutely. Have you ever experienced failure and defeat? Have you ever worked your ass off for a damned year to finally put it behind you? Have you ever, in the words of Boogie Cousins been 'motivated by the struggle and the hate'? This Spurs victory was for all of us. Apparently, we do live in a timeline where human redemption and justice exist, where hard work, dedication, and camaraderie are rewarded, and where good vibes, at least temporarily, may triumph over bad.

Now, what the hell are we supposed to do until November?

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