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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 06: Tony Parker #9, Tim Duncan #21 and Stephen Jackson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs walk down court against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 6, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Thursday, Jun 7 at 8:16 AM
So there will be no NBA championship for the Spurs this season, no victory celebration with a parade on the River Walk.
After reeling off a 20-game winning streak that included a 10-0 start in the playoffs, the Spurs' promising postseason run ended with a thud in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, as young as they are talented, rallied from an 18-point first-half deficit to beat the Spurs 107-99 and punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.
The Thunder became only the third team in NBA history to win four consecutive games in the conference finals after trailing 2-0.
And the Spurs?
They now have the dubious distinction of being the first team in NBA annals to win its first 10 playoff games and not make the Finals.
OKC, led by 23-year-old forward Kevin Durant, will play either the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat for the championship. When the finals start in Oklahoma City next Tuesday night, the Thunder will be favored to win the franchise's second title.
The first one came in 1979 when the franchise was in Seattle. The SuperSonics beat the Washington Bullets, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Spurs in the Eastern Conference finals, for the championship.
Five-year title drought longest of Duncan's career
That meltdown against the Bullets 33 years ago haunted the Spurs until they finally won their first NBA championship in 1999. They went on capture four titles in nine seasons, adding crowns in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The five-year title drought is the longest of Spur forward Tim Duncan's 15-year career. Now 36, Duncan becomes a free agent in July. But don't look for him to play anywhere else. As he told Johnny Ludden of Yahoo Sports recently, he's a "Spur for life" and indicated he would like to play another season or two.
With the Thunder rising to the top of the Western Conference, the Spurs will be hard pressed to win a fifth title with Duncan still on the team.
OKC's series-clinching victory Wednesday night completed a remarkable turnaround of fortunes for the top two seeds in the Western Conference.
After sweeping the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, the Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 lead against OKC in the conference finals. A team that had gotten little respect from the national media throughout the season was being hailed from coast to coast as one of the best in recent NBA history.
No one could have predicted the monumental playoff collapse that followed.
After winning the first two games of the series against the Thunder in San Antonio, the Spurs lost two in a row in Oklahoma City. The 102-82 rout in Game 3 not only snapped the Silver & Black's club-record winning streak, it changed the dynamics of the series. It energized OKC and exposed the Spurs' vulnerabilities.
Spurs hurt themselves with turnovers
But, really, the cracks in the Silver & Black's game started appearing in Game 1. Behind for most of the game, the Spurs managed to rally for a 101-98 victory despite finishing with 17 turnovers. The Spurs cut the turnovers to 13 in their 120-111 win in Game 2, but then came the 20-point loss in Oklahoma City.
The defeat was the Spurs' first since April 11, when they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers at the AT&T Center.
Bolstered by their home crowd, the Thunder played well on both ends of the court from start to finish in Game 3. But the Spurs gave them plenty of help, committing 21 turnovers that the Thunder feasted on.
The Spurs had only 10 turnovers in Game 4, but Durant hit 13 of 20 shots and scored a game-high 36 points in the Thunder's 109-103 victory. Durant was virtually unstoppable in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points with an assortment of jumpers and clashing moves to the basket.
Thunder big men Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins also contributed mightily in Game 4, making 22 of 25 field-goal attempts and combining for 49 points. Ibaka, especially, hurt the Spurs, going 11 of 11 from the field and scoring a career-high 26 points.
With the series tied after four games, the Spurs were expected to regain their footing in Game 5 at the AT&T Center on Monday. But the Thunder refused to crack.
Even with a stellar performance from Manu Ginobili, who scored a game-high 34 points and started for the first time in this year's playoffs, the Spurs couldn't stop their skid.
Spurs lost this series in Game 5
Durant scored 27 points and Russell Westbrook and James Harden added 23 and 20, respectively, to lead OKC to a stunning 108-103 victory that moved the Thunder to within one win of the Finals.
The Spurs made things tough for themselves again, committing 21 turnovers that OKC converted into 28 points.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talked about the turnover problem before the team departed for Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
"They’re a good enough team already," he said of the Thunder. "I don't think they need our help. When they score 28 points off of our 21 turnovers, it's enough to make you kick yourself. It's frustrating and maddening more than anything, because we've played so poorly as far as handling the basketball."
The Spurs cut their turnovers to 12 in Game 6, but it was too little, too late.
In retrospect, the Spurs lost this series in Game 5.
Their quest for a fifth championship unfulfilled for another year, they will have a long offseason to think about what might have been.