The San Antonio Spurs have won 20 straight games. Twenty.
They’ve reached this point with veteran leadership, savvy point guard play from Tony Parker, an influx of young role players and more fundamentals than a Tom Emanski video. But in the first two games of the Western Conference finals they’ve also needed a little something extra. Or “some nasty,” as Coach Gregg Popovich likes to call it.
With his team trailing by nine entering the fourth quarter of Game 1, Popovich told his team “I want some nasty.” The Spurs responded with an 11-3 run that included four drawn charges to rally for the win.
In the fourth quarter Tuesday, with the Thunder pulling closer, Popovich again pleaded for some of that nastiness. And again San Antonio finished strong to claim a 2-0 series lead.
“We like to play like that,” said Parker, who hit 16 of 21 shots for a game-high 34 points. “That’s the way we play.”
Oft-criticized for their fundamentally sound style of play, the Spurs are playing with a razor-sharp edge this postseason. From their physical defense to Tim Duncan’s rare dunk on Tuesday, San Antonio is barreling toward the finals.
And after TNT’s on-court microphones picked up Popovich’s timeout talks, his new catch phrase is on T-shirts all over San Antonio. A little of that nasty was on display in the second half of Game 2 when Popovich called a timeout to lay into his star point guard after a 6-0 Thunder run.
“He was just screaming at me,” Parker said in a post-game on-court interview on TNT. “He screamed at me for 11 years, it’s not a big deal. We didn’t get into our plays, OKC came back on us, he wanted to make sure I kept pushing the ball and made sure everyone stayed ready.”
Fresh off an impressive dismantling of the Lakers, the Thunder are suddenly on their heels heading back to Oklahoma City where Game 3 essentially becomes a must win scenario.
“If you don’t know us by now we’ve been a resilient group that bounces back,” Kevin Durant told The Oklahoman. “Tough to go down 0-2. We didn’t come in here thinking ‘OK, they’re supposed to get these two at home.’ We wanted to come in here and win. We didn’t do that. We get an opportunity to go home and play in front of our home crowd and try to get Game 3.”
That home crowd has helped the Thunder go 5-0 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in the playoffs, but the venue has had minimal impact on San Antonio’s rock solid run.