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Spurs advance to NBA Finals, leaving the Heat, Pacers to battle

By Daniel Edwards     May 29, 2013 in Sports
With a four-game sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies by the Western Conference Champions the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers battle to determine which team will represent the east in the 2013 NBA Finals.
In 1999, a year after Michael Jordan’s cross over jumper on Byron Russell led to the Bulls sixth championship in eight years, the San Antonio Spurs began what would become and continues to be a dominating force in the NBA. The Spurs championship in 1999, led by Tim Duncan and former NBA center David Robinson, solidified the re-emergence of the Spurs franchise which was transitioning from its mediocrity of the 1980’s. In the last twenty four seasons the San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs only once, and the Tim Duncan era is in its sixteenth straight post season. From the period of 1999-2007, the Spurs won the NBA championship four times in eight years, a feat only surpassed by the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls. These statistics are still relevant today as the San Antonio Spurs, as shocking as it may be to some, are very much still relevant in the quest to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The San Antonio Spurs have crafted a historical playoff run sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, and more recently the Memphis Grizzlies, to capture the Western Conference title and clinch a NBA finals berth for the first time since 2007. The San Antonio Spurs, continuing on the precedent set by Michael Jordan and the 90’s era Bulls, have never lost an NBA finals series, a statistic which should be at the forefront of the minds of the yet to be decided Eastern Conference contender. The Spurs have managed to sustain relevance in the Western Conference at a time when former NBA powerhouses and conference rivals Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns have all slipped into obscurity with either early playoff exits or subpar season records.
Despite the decline that the Spurs Western Conference peers have experienced, San Antonio has stayed consistent in maintaining a subtle dominance that goes unnoticed until the playoffs begin. The Spurs success can be largely attributed to the changing rosters acceptance of the team’s playing style and culture which is a page out of the sports creator James Naismith playbook. The Spurs play fundamental basketball, a style of basketball that does not make it to the highlight reel but puts banners on the stadium ceiling. Solid defence, rebounding, passing and calculated shot selection should make the current Eastern Conference finalist, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, re evaluate its possible game plan upon advancement to the finals.
The sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies by the Spurs has placed increasing pressure on the Heat and Pacers in the east, as every game the Eastern Conference finals continues equates to a longer rest period for the Spurs which has proven to be an integral part of the Spurs success due to its veteran roster.
The road to the Eastern Conference finals for the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers has been met with scepticism as the Miami Heat lost game 1 of the conference semi finals to the roster depleted but gritty Chicago bulls, leaving some thinking the Heat could be in for a challenge, while the Pacers contended with the favoured number two seed New York Knicks. Adversity aside, the Heat and Pacers prevailed in convincing fashion leading to the current conference finals which is tied 2-2 after the Pacers put away the Heat 99-92 on Tuesday night. The Pacers youth and size versus the experience of the number one ranked defending champions Miami Heat has created a series where every missed free throw and sloppy possession converts to much needed points in the final minutes. With the exception of the game 2 blowout by the Miami Heat, the remaining three games could have gone either way as the point differentials were not far apart. A complete turn around for the Pacers who met the Heat last year in the conference semi finals and succumbed to the eventual champions 4-2.
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flickr/Keith Allison
Pacers fans may be feeling that Indiana should be going to close out the Heat on Thursday night as the Pacers would have been up 3-1 if not for the slow rotating defence of the Pacers leading to a Lebron James lay up at the buzzer in game 1. With the series tied and San Antonio laying wait for the results, the Eastern Conference finals is the only obstacle delaying the Miami Heat from qualifying for its third NBA finals appearance in three years and restoring the Pacers to its former glory of the Reggie Miller era with its first finals appearance since 2000.
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