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Their four titles have made the Spurs respected but never beloved. Their first, in 1999, came following a 50-game lockout season, and they certainly weren’t the team to help the NBA regain its jilted fan base.
Victories in 2003 over New Jersey, 2005 over Detroit and 2007 over James’ Cleveland Cavaliers were all low-rated, lukewarm-interest series in which the Spurs were supposed to win and did, just not in a way that erased the idea that they had boring players with a boring brand of basketball.
Win this one, though, and they will surely get their due. They would be knocking off the league’s winningest team and the game’s best player, with Duncan at 37 and Ginobili soon to be 36, behind a more wide-open offense that has helped Green break Allen’s finals record for 3-pointers.
Not that they’re thinking about that, or anything else beyond Game 6 at this point.
"We’ll reflect back and let it hit us when it’s over. We still have a lot more work to do. There’s still some business to be done. We have to carry it out and finish it," said Green, who was cut previously by the Cavaliers and Spurs and now has made 25 3-pointers in the first five games.
It looked as though the game was finally passing by the Spurs last year, when the young Oklahoma City Thunder blew by them with four straight victories after San Antonio had taken a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Heat routed the Thunder for the championship and the Spurs brought back essentially the same team, believing another year in their system for players like Green and Kawhi Leonard was a better option than seeking out some quick-fix outsider.
That’s almost always been the Spurs’ way, and it’s on the verge of again being the model for an NBA title — at the expense of the Miami one that once appeared to be the way champions would be built.
"I think every one of us wants this very badly from the top on down," Duncan said. "We’re trying to play that way."
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