It has taken six long years, but the San Antonio Spurs are Western Conference Champions once again.
What a statement they made too.
Their 93-86 victory in Memphis over the Grizzlies ensured a 4-0 series sweep, the first in a conference finals since 1993, when the Nets swept the Pistons to claim the Eastern Conference championship. The Spurs have swept two out of their three opponents in the Playoffs thus far, demonstrating the sort of class and team-unity that has become the benchmark of the Popovich era in San Antonio.
There's just no substitute for experience.
Despite their regular season record of 58-24, many believed the Playoffs would be too much strain on this ageing group, who have been wrapped in cotton wool for most of the season, guaranteeing their freshness for the postseason. It seemed to be a bridge too far last season, blowing a 2-0 lead against Oklahoma City and falling at the final hurdle. With another year on the clocks of their star players, it would take a great deal of effort and man-management to get there again.
In the end, it was an absolute demolition job.
The Memphis Grizzlies continued their fairytale post-season by destroying the Western Conference favourites, the Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-1 to advance into the Conference finals. The 88-84 victory to ensure their advancement was typical of the gritty determination they have shown throughout the season. Now, the team who had recorded just one Playoff series win in their history until this season, has a real chance of winning the West and quite possibly an NBA Championship.
They have never claimed to be the most popular or fashionable team that's ever graced a court. They are tough, workmanlike and work very well as a unit. These traits might not get you the Nationally televised games or the endorsement deals, but it does bring you success. It may have taken some time, but Memphis are now reaping the rewards for sticking to their principles and are finally getting the praise their performances have deserved for some time.
It's that time of year again. We are at the business end of the NBA season, the Play-offs. Here we will take a look at the match ups in the Western Conference, where the Oklahoma City Thunder will once again look to assert their dominance and make a return trip to the finals.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs Houston Rockets (8):
It just had to be, didn't it?
Only a few months removed from the blockbuster trade, James Harden must now come up against his former team in the environment that matters most, the Playoffs. The Rockets were demoted to the eighth seed on the final day of the season and they now have the unenviable task of trying to overcome last seasons Western Conference Champions, The Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder have picked up right where they left off last season. Most people thought that with the loss of the sixth man of the year they would struggle somewhat when Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook are out of the game. This has not been the case, Kevin Martin has stepped in and the Thunder has not missed a beat. Martin has always been an efficient scorer and with more open looks playing with better players he has thrived.
After so long watching the 'Black Mamba', is anybody surprised?
When the business end of the season comes along, Kobe Bryant can always be counted on for match-winning performances when it matters most. Last night was no exception. With the Lakers just half a game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the final Play off place in the Western Conference, it was critical that they continued their good form on the road against an inexperienced Portland side.
Thanks to Bryant, the Lakers were able to do just that.
The Lakers emerged from a close fought encounter with a vital 113-106 victory. Bryant was nothing short of sensational. His stat line was off the charts. 47 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. What was more impressive though was that Bryant played all 48 minutes of the game, refusing to rest as he drove the Lakers past the winning post. Everybody watching Basketball over the last few years has been waiting for Bryant to slow down and for his considerable talent to fade as his age and minutes increased.