The San Antonio Spurs went an NBA-best 40-1 at home this year, they swept Memphis in the first round of the playoffs and they beat Oklahoma City by 32 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Well, it’s been pretty much downhill ever since.
The Spurs have lost three of their last four games, including two at home. San Antonio coughed up a 13-point second-half lead Tuesday to lose, 95-91, to Oklahoma City and fall behind 3-2 in the series.
Are the Spurs getting old right in front of our eyes?
“Well, I think you can say that about some Spurs players,” Basketball Insiders managing editor Alex Kennedy told Paul Nanos, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Certainly Tim Duncan hasn’t been his usual self in this series and that’s unfortunate to see because he’s been dominant and consistent for so long. But they do have other guys that stepped up. Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge – these guys are playing great basketball. But I definitely think when you talk about Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, these guys have struggled. A few years ago, the idea of Tim Duncan going last game without a shot or struggling in this game and people saying he shouldn’t be on the floor – that’s just kind of crazy. So I do think that it’s a combination of the Spurs’ key pieces getting older.
“But then also I think Oklahoma City, they’re so young and athletic that they can really cause matchup problems with this older team,” Kennedy continued. “Tony Parker has a really hard time staying in front of Russell Westbrook. Kevin Durant can cause problems all over the floor. Steven Adams, Enes Kanter – these guys are down low playing against Duncan. That makes it difficult, too. I think it’s the matchup but also the fact that they are getting older. The combination hasn’t been very good for San Antonio.”
If Kennedy were Gregg Popovich, he would give Leonard and Aldridge the green light to take over games. He also believes that David West, 35, has more to offer than the 40-year-old Duncan, who is averaging 3.4 points and 3.6 rebounds against the Thunder.
“He makes smart plays and he’s able to contribute on both ends,” Kennedy said of West. “I also think Boris Diaw, if they want to go small, they could put him in there. He’s someone that’s very versatile. He’s someone that, in the past, has completely changed series for them. He’s someone that can change a series because he’s so versatile, play multiple positions, match up with different guys. He’s not Draymond Green obviously, but he’s someone that can play so many positions and facilitate and defend and rebound, so I think that’s who I would go with.”
Game 6 is Thursday in Oklahoma City at 8:30 p.m. ET.
While the West is full of scintillating match-ups and topsy-turvy series, the East is mere formality. The Cavaliers, who are 8-0 in the playoffs, are waiting to see which team – Toronto or Miami – they will dismantle in the conference finals.
“I don’t think Cleveland is going to have any trouble with either of those teams,” Kennedy said. ‘The way they’re playing right now, they’re moving the ball, they’re playing so unselfishly, knocking down tons of threes – I think they’re going to be able to beat either one of those teams pretty easily. And really, I think the only way the Cavaliers run into trouble is if they’re looking ahead at the NBA Finals. There could be a few trap games there between now and the Finals, but I would be absolutely stunned if any team other than Cleveland was representing the East in the Finals.”