I posed this question to a buddy of mine and Spurs fan earlier this week. Do you feel like this is San Antonio's last stand?
Like any good, most likely delusional fan, he scoffed at the question and said the Spurs have at least three more years in their title window.
He mentioned how Duncan has gone back in time, how Parker is only 30 and in the prime of his career, how Manu has a few good years left and how the young guys like Green and Leonard will only get better and can carry the load for the vets through the regular season. All valid points, but he failed to look at the one thing that stands in the way of another championship beyond this season: The Oklahoma City Thunder.
Leading up to Sunday night's Game 1, you're going to hear every "old versus young" comparison in the book, but the number that sticks out in my mind is 24.
As in Westbrook, Durant, Harden and Ibaka, the core of this OKC team, are all under the age of 24. I don't care who's your team, that's just scary to think about.
The Thunder follow the mold of every emerging dynasty. A few years ago, they were a 20-win team, then lost as an 8-seed to the Lakers in the playoffs, then lost last year's conference finals to Dallas. They destroyed both those teams this year. They are young, athletic, hungry, unafraid, but are they ready to dethrone another West power? I say NO and here's why.
First, the Spurs are a better team from top to bottom. As good as OKC has been, we've seen their best. We haven't seen the best from guys like Ginobili and Stephen Jackson.
I went through the matchups in my previous blog and the Spurs edge out the Thunder in most areas. I was called out for giving the advantage to the Thunder bench because of James Harden AKA "The Beard" AKA "Manu 2.0," but the advantage cancels out if Manu 1.0 and Captain Jack step up.
Second, it's cliche, but you can't downplay the experience factor. Ready for stat of the day number 2? The Spurs Big 3 have played close to 130 playoff games TOGETHER. The Thunder's Big 4 (Ibaka added) haven't played 130 playoff games combined.
Durant has been a monster down the stretch, but the Spurs know how to win at this level and never get rattled no matter the situation, just ask the Clippers who are still wondering what happened to that 20-point lead in Game 3.
Third, Timmy D. I'm a firm believer teams need stars to carry them to a title (See Lebron and Wade dismantling Indy). Heading into the playoffs, you could argue the Spurs couldn't match OKC's star power, but vintage Duncan came out of nowhere.
The most devout Spurs fan couldn't have predicted Duncan putting up '05 to '07 Big Fundamental numbers. He's dominating both ends of the floor again. TD along with TP give the Spurs the firepower to match OKC's explosiveness.
Fourth, I consider myself an NBA history geek and league history tells you the Thunder need one more playoff heartbreak before they own the West for the next 5 to 7 years.
So to answer my own question, I do believe this is San Antonio's last shot at a title because barring significant injury, no one will be able to hold off OKC for the foreseeable future, but for this series, San Antonio will. And it should be everything that makes the playoffs great.
It's an aging dynasty against a future one, it's the Spurs Big 3 moving up the All-time great's ladder while OKC's Big 3 put their feet on the first rung, it's Durant coming back to Texas, it's Duncan coming back from old age, it's two rabid fan bases, it's TNT "Drama" and overplayed "Men at Work" commercials, it's Charles Barkley ripping the River Walk, it's the Spurs holding off the Thunder and winning the West in a hard fought, exciting 7-game series. Get your popcorn ready.