VIDEO: Inside Trax: Gregg Popovich
OKLAHOMA CITY — It took digging Matt Bonner out of mothballs and maybe a not-so-subtle couple of days of pounding a message of ferocity into their heads to wake them up, but the Spurs have regained their spirit.
Coach Gregg Popovich has done his part. Now it’s up to the Spurs to remember who they are and close the deal on the Western Conference finals in Game 6.
“Yeah, absolutely we believe we can,” said Tim Duncan on the heels of another turn-back-the-clock night of 22 points and 12 rebounds in Game 5. “It’s a tough place to play and we’ve lost however many in a row there and they’re going to be fighting for their lives.
“All those factors altogether are not going to make it an easy game for us. But we feel we play the right way. We take care of the ball. We do the things that we’ve been talking about all series long. There’s no reason why we can’t win it.”
The Spurs have lost nine consecutive games at Chesapeake Arena, including five in a row in the playoffs. The last time Duncan and his teammates won in OKC was back on March 12, 2012 when DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal and James Anderson were still wearing silver and black.
But the core of the roster remains the same along with the way the Spurs want to play the game. They have to beat the Thunder with guile and not athleticism, with patience and poise rather than trying to go outside their character.
“This is the way we’ve been playing all season long and how we need to play to win,” Duncan said, referring to the Spurs’ 117-89 win on Thursday night. “We shared the ball real well. We moved the ball real well. We moved our bodies. We took something away from them and we made them react.”
While much had been made of the Thunder trying to re-live the 2012 Western Conference finals when they came back from an 0-2 hole to sweep four straight games, actually this series full of blowouts is almost an entirely different page out of Spurs history. After winning the first two games of the 2005 NBA Finals at home, the Spurs went to Detroit and were blown out by 20 in back-to-back games. Robert Horry saved them with a dramatic shot in Game 5, but they had to return home to pull out their second championship with Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as teammates by going a full seven games.
“I never want to go to seven games with anybody,” Ginobili said. “I wish we could win 4-0 every time. But we are playing against one of the best teams in the league with the MVP, a very talented, athletic group of players.
“Of course, we’re going to go there and try to play our best game and try to finish the series. But if it gets back [to San Antonio] and we have to play a Game 7, we’ll do it. And we know to beat a team like them, we’re going to have to work very hard. If there’s a seven, there’s a seven.”