Did No-Call End the Spurs’ Dynasty?
I’m not here to harp on the no-call at the end of Game 4 which resulted in the Lakers win over the Spurs. As I said in that post, the Spurs had 48 minutes of basketball to win the ballgame and ensure it didn’t come down to a last-second shot, much less a referee’s judgment call. The Lakers led all game and earned the victory. Anyway, the point of this post is based on something my buddy Arnie Spanier has been talking about the last few days: franchise-changing moments. There are certain moments that occur in sports that change the course of history for franchises. A big home run is hit off a pitcher, he’s never the same after that. A big free agent busts, it holds the team back for years. For the Mavericks it could have been the Game 3 loss to the Heat. They blew the lead in that game, their 2-0 lead in the series, and since then they’ve traded away Devin Harris and fired Avery Johnson. That could have been a franchise-changing moment.
So is it possible that after losing Game 4 to the Lakers — a game in which the Spurs had a chance to tie the series up 2-2 — San Antonio will never be the same? Is this the decline of their team and the franchise? While I think it’s a compelling point, I don’t think it’s a reflection of reality. San Antonio was the second or third best team in the Western Conference this year (depending on how you look at things), merely one elite team amongst many. They were the defending champs more because of the horrible suspensions on the Suns and the terrible first round matchup for the Mavs. They weren’t necessarily the best team last year, things kind of just broke their way. Same thing with this year — though they were the defending champs, they weren’t the favorites once the Lakers acquired Pau. Moreover, even if the foul were called, the Spurs won the game in OT and tied the series 2-2, they still probably would have lost in 7.
The Spurs are a solid team and will continue to be a playoff team for the next two years, possibly three. Duncan’s getting up there but has a few years left, and they still have a solid youngster in Parker, and another stud in Ginobili. They’re still going to be a winner. But they weren’t the top team this year, and they probably weren’t the top team last year. The no-call won’t prevent them from continuing to be a top-10 team in the league the next few years. And if there was an event that changed the fortunes of the playoff teams more than any other, it wasn’t the no-call. It was the acquisition of Pau Gasol, which broke up the Suns and Mavericks, ended the Spurs’ run, and probably gave the Lakers a title.