This may be the first time that the San Antonio Spurs will enter the Western Conference Finals matchup as underdogs, since being swept by the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who were in the midst of a three-peat at that time.
Coach Gregg Popovich and his men are about to face a tall order of in the form of basketball juggernaut Golden State Warriors, which breezed through the regular season (67-15) and are asserting their dominance (8-0) in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Spurs are coming off two grueling six-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets.
The odds might be stacked against San Antonio's chances versus the overpowered superteam, but an upset isn't too farfetched, especially if these 5 factors pan out:
Here's hoping the elite big man can pick up where he left off, in a Game 6 that was reminiscent of his days as a Portland Trail Blazer. Before his 34-point, 12-rebound explosion on Friday, Aldridge has been mostly lackluster so far in this postseason. The matchup against an average Warriors frontcourt is really his for the taking; same goes for Pau Gasol and David Lee.
Coaching track record
The rivaling tacticians of the WCF have had quite the history. Golden State's Mike Brown, who is filling in for the ailing Steve Kerr, began his career as assistant coach under Popovich in 2000. Four years after winning a title with San Antonio, Brown found himself on the wrong end of a Finals sweep as the Cleveland Cavaliers mentor. For the student, revenge against his mentor will be sweet.
San Antonio will need more vintage Ginobiliiiii from Game 5 (12 points, one game-saving block) if they hope to get over the Golden State hump. Already without the injured Tony Parker and the retired Tim Duncan, the Spurs will rely on the NBA's second oldest player and his balding spot for that much-needed veteran presence and spark off the bench.
Thrust into the starting lineup for the first time in the series, up-and-coming swingman Jonathon Simmons rewarded Pop's confidence with a playoff career-high 18 points during the clincher. Whether it's Patty Mills or Dejounte Murray, the next man up should at least match the intensity of the Warriors' subs. We're looking at you, Dewayne Dedmon or Kyle Anderson.
No 'I' in team
That said, San Antonio can only counter the Dubs using its own flawless execution. It wasn't suprising that Aldridge and co. looked invincible even with their best player out (32 assists). Make no mistake; Kawhi is still indispensable. But his team's campaign will hinge on their willingness to revive that beautiful Spurs basketball.