Spurs don't get back without moving on
JUN 02, 2014 12:56p ET
The journey back to the NBA Finals is one the San Antonio Spurs had never made before. Each of their four previous championships didn't include a back-to-back title, much less a return to the title series.
So that makes this season unique in terms of getting back. The Spurs suffered their first Finals setback last June, a painful and downright cruel ending in Miami. Never had a team lost in such spectacular fashion on a worldwide stage.
Lesser teams don't come back from that sort of heartache. The Spurs aren't a lesser team.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has made it a point throughout the season to credit his squad for not throwing a "pity party" after falling in seven games to the Heat when the Spurs were so close to winning in six. As much as it hurt, as much as it lingered, Pop was determined to move on.
Part of that process â maybe the biggest part â began in October. Before the start of training camp, Popovich served up film from Game 6 and 7 of the 2013 Finals. Reliving the collapse began the therapy.
"We were just trying to put it away," Tim Duncan said. "Just get over that part of it, learn from it, and move forward from there."
Moving forward appeared to take place rather seamlessly, at least at first glance. The Spurs authored the league's best record (62-20) and earned the top overall seed for the playoffs, which is why the Finals open Thursday night in San Antonio.
The Spurs also entered the playoffs as fresh as a team can be after 82 games. No player on the roster averaged 30 minutes per game, a first in NBA history. There were also a few bumps and growing pains along the way.
Popovich employed 30 different lineups during the regular season, second only to the Los Angeles Lakers, due to injuries and nights off, while using 17 different starters. Lineup No. 31 and starter No. 18 debuted for late in the Western Conference finals, with Matt Bonner getting the nod for the deciding two games against the Thunder.
"We just had a weird year this year," Duncan said. "We were pressing hard early on and grinding on each other, just because of what happened last year. We were able to settle ourselves down. We played with a bunch of different lineups all year long. We had guys ready to play, and it's shown throughout these playoffs where guys just step up and step in and are ready to play.
"I'm proud of the team for just being ready, just not letting that weigh on us and using it as an excuse for anything. We're back here now, and we want to get it done this time."
Getting another shot at the Heat is just an added bonus. Miami is in the Finals for the fourth consecutive year, and looking to finish off a three-peat with a second consecutive conquest of the San Antonio.
The Spurs not only have a chance at revenge by interrupting the Heat Dynasty, but also reclaim the crown the franchise last wore in 2007.
"It's another opportunity for us," Danny Green said. "Obviously we are very happy and pleased with the season we have had so far, but we are not by any means satisfied. We know we have a lot of work to do against a very good team. There is a reason why they're back there and are two-time champs. We have our work cut out for us, but we are happy with going back, just not satisfied."
Popovich made sure of that.
"I wouldn't say that any one of our teams has been more driven than any other one," he said, "but this particular team showed great resolve in not having a pity party after losing in the Finals so dramatically, and then coming back this year and playing the way they have. They deserve credit for that, but that's not what they want. They don't want credit, they want to go win."
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