Buzzfeed just did one of those "Ways The World Was Different When..." about the San Antonio Spurs' massive win streak. It's silly, but yo: Hologram concerts weren't a thing! Bryce Harper was a Syracuse Chief! No Girls! Honestly, though, you needn't the context to be impressed by San Antonio's stretch of dominance. On April 11, they lost to the Lakers. After that, San Antonio just razed the rest of the regular season, winning their final eleven matchups, nine of them by double-digits. The playoff opponents met a similar unceremonious fate: The Jazz and Clippers managed just two single-digit losses between 'em.
And that's been the thing about these Spurs. There have been long streaks before, but they tend to be propped up by at least a handful of close, favorable outcomes and lucky breaks. With only a few exceptions (that comeback against the Clippers!), San Antonio's just been squashing folks. Their central pick-and-roll game with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and friends has blossomed to the point of utterly humiliating defenders. And if anyone dare poach that pick-and-roll, the ball's been quick to find Manu Ginobili knifing through the lane or Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Stephen Jackson lingering on the wings. It's terrifying.
And until last night, it kinda seemed like they were destined to never lose again, like the buzz saw had too much momentum to hit a snag. They'd handled the Oklahoma City Thunder — a team that has looked similarly invincible at times, by the way — with aplomb, alternately spreading them thin with shooters and spearing the gut of the D with that pick-and-roll.
And all of that is why last night probably gave some viewers the bends. It was positively jarring to see that whirring machine of death sputter, but the Thunder made it so. Zach Lowe's post this morning breaks it all down nicely. Scott Brooks changed things up a bit, sicking the bigger (and Swisser) Thabo Sefolosha on Tony Parker, then instructing his charges to switch and help on the roll with abandon. San Antonio's guards found nary an open lane, and Tim Duncan looked unusually flustered finishing in traffic around the rim. The typical response to that kind of paint-packing defense is to feed the perimeter, and the Spurs actually did that with some success, hitting 11 of 26 from outside. It wasn't nearly enough, though. The Thunder blew them out in interior scoring (44-24), got to the line more, and got some big, timely threes from guys like Sefolosha and Derek Fisher (who is nothing but timely) to snuff out any chance of a comeback. We got a good ten minutes or so of Patty Mills, Lazar Hayward, and company at the end there. It was never close.
So, it might be a series. Might be. Maybe Brooks and the Thunder are really on to something, and maybe Oklahoma City's home crowd has exerted a genuine influence. It seems unlikely, though, that Gregg Popovich's guys will die twice by the same sword. The Spurs are liable to absorb the loss and come out with something new and even more sinister in Game 4, so the Thunder best be ready to adjust again — faster this time — if they want a chance to steal back the momentum. Whatever happens going forward, they'll at least be able to say they made the Spurs stumble. Not even Girls and hologram Tupac could do that.