San Antonio Spurs beaten by Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7

Jay Asser 12:01 04/05/2015
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Lock and load: A limping Chris Paul puts up the winning shot under pressure from Tim Duncan.

From defending champions to uncertain future, the San Antonio Spurs’ focus is no longer on the playoffs, but what’s to come in the offseason.

– Brooklyn Nets defeats Atlanta Hawks in Game 3
– Warriors through to second round after beating Pelicans
– Cleveland Cavaliers overpower Boston Celtics in Game 4

In a thrilling and entertaining Game 7 that lived up to the hype, San Antonio came up on the short end of the 111-109 result with the Los Angeles Clippers thanks to a clutch one-legged shot by Chris Paul in the final seconds.

The history books will show the Spurs, a year after an impressive championship run, fail to advance past the first round.

However, the series featured two of the best teams in the NBA this season who had the misfortune of being matched up early.

It made for a compelling, back-and-forth series, but it also meant one team was getting eliminated earlier than they anticipated.

“Usually in the past if we’ve won a series we’ve pretty much won it hands down, or if we got beat pretty easily,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

“Six of the seven games were a grind. It was a little different in that way, but it was a great series.”

More noteworthy than San Antonio’s hopes of repeating coming to an end was the possibility that Tim Duncan may have played his final game.

The future Hall of Famer and Spurs legend is 39-years-old, but hasn’t yet appeared to be hindered by Father Time.

Duncan averaged 17.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and shot 58.9 per cent in the series against Los Angeles while playing a robust 35.7 minutes per game.

His contract is now over, along with long-time team-mate Manu Ginobili, and Popovich has continuously said he’ll follow his franchise player out the door. 

The time for that though, might not be now.

“It’s all psycho babble. I have no clue,” Popovich said.

“We’ll (Duncan, Ginobili) probably come back. Paycheck is pretty good. You think I’m lying.”

Unlike Duncan, Ginobili wasn’t as effective in the later stages of his career this season.

The 37-year-old flashed his familiar brilliance in stretches against the Clippers, but averaged a career-low 8.0 points and 34.9 per cent shooting for the playoffs.

“I don’t know. It could happen easily,” the sixth man said of retirement.

“I still don’t know what I want to do and I don’t want to make decisions right after the disappointment of a game like this.”

Regardless of Duncan’s or Ginobili’s decision, the Spurs are transitioning into a new phase of the franchise in which Kawhi Leonard is the face of the team.

The 23-year-old became San Antonio’s leading scorer while also winning Defensive Player of the Year.

He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, but all indications are the Spurs will sign him to a max contract and build around him.

Whatever is in store, general manager R.C. Buford has seen the team come back from uncertainty before.

“The resilience that these guys have shown the organisation and the sport speaks for itself,” Buford told ESPN. 

“This was supposed to happen a long time ago. These circumstances have been called on long before.”

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