Sadly, injuries might define the San Antonio Spurs more than anything else in 2017. Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker both missed significant time that cost them in the playoffs and those injuries lingered into the regular season.
But hope springs eternal going into 2018 as both players are back and the Silver and Black have looked pretty great playing without them so far this season.
But for one last time this year, let’s look back at the moments we’ll remember from a special year with the Spurs:
10. Manu beats the Celtics
Everyone was hoping that Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker would be back at full strength by the time the Spurs hosted the team with the best record in the NBA on KENS 5.
They weren’t. But you know who was game? Manu Ginobili, of course! The Spurs fought the Boston Celtics all the way and had one shot to win it.
Was there ever any doubt?
Manu’s 40 years old, by the way. And he’s got plenty left in the tank for another playoff run that we can’t wait to watch.
9. Kawhi posterizes Capela in the playoffs
As great as The Klaw is, among the underrated parts of his career is how nasty his dunks in traffic are. He posterizes people on a regular basis but he doesn’t make the national highlights all the time for it because he’s got the same look on his face afterwards as he does throwing an entry pass to LaMarcus Aldridge in the low block.
Look at this dunk on Houston’s Clint Capela in the playoffs:
8. A screamer for Danny Green
As you may have guessed, there’s going to be a lot of Game 5 of the Houston Rockets series on this list. And understandably so.
The stakes were so high in that game and the Spurs fought so hard. Already without Tony Parker and then losing Kawhi Leonard in the fourth quarter, the Spurs traded blows with the Rockets all night and turned in a classic.
Among the heroes was Danny Green, who hit a clutch three in overtime that made one fan’s celebration go viral.
More from this series later.
7. Kawhi’s game-winner vs. the Pacers
There was a time when if you asked the average NBA fan whether they’d want Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, it’d be a toss-up. Now, there’s no question.
Among the many clutch moments for Sugar K Leonard in 2017 was this dagger in the heart of the Indiana Pacers:
6. Kawhi Clutch in Memphis
Arguably Kawhi’s best performance of the year came in an instant classic: Game 4 in Memphis against the Grizzlies.
The Spurs lost in OT, but Leonard’s numbers were astounding: 43 points, 8 rebounds, 6 steals.
Among the big shots in the game was this one for the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter:
Doris Burke said it perfectly: “Leonard says, nuh uh, my fadeaway is sweet.”
5. A Celebration of Manu
After Kawhi went down in the Western Conference Finals, the outcome was inevitable. The Spurs were swept. But there was something beautiful about Game 4. It became a celebration of the team, the season, and ultimately Manu Ginobili.
We didn’t know whether it would be his last game, but the crowd at the AT&T Center let him know that Spurs fans loved him and were thankful for everything he gave them.
Thankfully, Manu’s still bringing it this year.
4. Kawhi beats the Rockets… on both ends
Don’t let anybody tell you different, Kawhi Leonard was the real MVP of the 2016-2017 season.
He got it done on both ends of the floor and this sequence against the Rockets is why everyone fears the Spurs when Kawhi’s playing.
3. Grandpa Juice
No Kawhi. No Tony. No problem.
In that now-legendary Game 5 of the Rockets series, Manu Ginobili brought what we now know as “Grandpa Juice.” And he let the Rockets know early.
DUNK ON 'EM MANU! pic.twitter.com/JtdKNVPQOY— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 10, 2017
We’d say that Manu turned back the clock. But in reality, he’s never stopped amazing us.
2. The Clincher
This entire game felt surreal. Knowing that Kawhi and Tony weren’t going to play in Game 6 of the Rockets series, fans were already bracing themselves to have to carry a short-handed team again for Game 7.
And then the Spurs blasted Houston out of the playoffs and shut down James Harden.
It’s among the most satisfying wins in Spurs playoff history. And after Rockets fans talked so much trash after blowing the Spurs out in Game 1, it was them that left early as Houston pathetically bowed out of the playoffs at the hands of the Silver and Black.
1. The Block
No words necessary.
Thank you, Manu.
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