San Antonio Spurs back in NBA finals after sweeping Memphis Grizzlies
San Antonio, who celebrate their fifth Western Conference crown after routing Memphis, now get first chance in six years to secure NBA title
It may seem as if the San Antonio Spurs are playing for an NBA title every year. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker know only too well how very long it has been since their last chance.
Now they are back in the finals with their first chance at a championship since 2007, a really long time for a Spurs team who know a thing or two - or three - about hoisting trophies.
"Honestly, it feels like it's been forever since we've been to this point," Duncan said after the Spurs advanced with a 93-86 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"We've been on the verge of kind of getting here. We still feel like we were in contention, but we can't get over that hump. To get over that hump and get back in the finals, it's an amazing feeling, honestly."
Parker scored 37 points to lead the Spurs, who finished off their second sweep this post-season for their fifth Western Conference title. The Spurs were just two wins away from a trip to the finals a year ago before blowing that lead in six games to Oklahoma City.
Parker said he had learned just how tough it was to get there after winning his first NBA title at the age of 21.
"In 2007, we won our third one in five years and you think it's going to keep coming," Parker said. "And I'm 25, and six years goes by, and every year it gets tougher and tougher. Every team wants to beat you, and that's why it makes it even more special to go back after all those years playing at a high level with the same coach, with the same big three, but changing a couple pieces."
The Spurs now head home to rest and wait for either Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers after finishing off the first conference finals sweep since the Nets handled Detroit in 2003. Game one of the finals is on June 6.
"If we go all the way, it'll definitely be my favourite because it gets harder and harder," Parker said with the Western championship trophy sitting in front of him.
The Spurs now have won six straight in these play-offs, and they did it by handing two straight losses to a team who had been undefeated on their own court in their best post-season in franchise history.
"We will be back," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said.
Memphis finished off the best season in team history getting swept by the very same franchise that needed four games to knock them out of their first play-off appearance in 2004.
The Grizzlies got a standing ovation from their fans as the final seconds ticked off.
Parker had his best game this post-season, hitting 15 of 21 shots and four of his six free throws in the final 29.7 seconds to seal this victory.
"He's been amazing," Duncan said of Parker. "Every year he gets better and better and better. He's been carrying us. You can see tonight he carried us the entire game."
The 37-year-old Duncan finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Kawhi Leonard added 11 points.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich savoured being back in the finals once again.
"You don't expect that to happen maybe this late in the game with the same group," Popovich said. "It's tough to do, to maintain something that long. But it just shows the character of those three guys and their ability to play with whoever else is brought in around them. They deserve a lot of credit for that."
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins had talked about how his Grizzlies needed to dig deep for something they didn't know they had to take the first step back into this series. They just couldn't outshoot the Spurs and got beaten once again at their own inside game.
"We just never could gain control of the paint," Hollins said. "They controlled the paint."