Some say the Spurs are boring, but there’s nothing boring about winning.
The NBA has seen some epic rivalries - Celtics and Lakers, Bulls and Pistons, Knicks and Pacers. After mentally and physically battling it out year after year, teams can develop intense dislike for their toughest opponents. I won’t say hate, but it gets close.
The nasty “Bad Boys” of Detroit incited acute animosity as a competitive edge. Sometimes exemplary one-on-one matchups got heated - like Bird and Magic’s on court warring. Or an unstoppable player was the bad guy, like Jordan or Kobe, or Reggie Miller tenaciously taking it to the Knicks time and time again.
In the first round of these playoffs, we definitely found things to find distasteful about the Houston Rockets. The selfish play of Harden and Howard, egotistical Chandler Parsons publicly dissing Nicolas Batum, the repellent coach, the acting to get calls - all of it rubbed Portland the wrong way. Not liking them was motivating.
Round two, however, presents the Blazers with an entirely different kind of menace. There isn’t much to despise about the Spurs, except that they are REALLY GOOD at basketball. They are an expertly coached example of efficiency, hard-working and down to earth - a respectful group of regular guys led by experienced veterans who value teamwork and unselfish play. Their on court demeanor is calm and methodical, clearly determined, stealth. They don’t posture after dunks. They don’t run their mouths. In a very businesslike way, they kill you with skilled execution.
The Blazers don’t loathe the Spurs, they want to Be the Spurs.
And as tough as it has been for the Blazer players (clearly out matched in the three blowout losses thus far) to mobilize against their dominant and unassuming opponent, the fans who packed the Moda Center Saturday night also had a difficult time rallying against a systematic squad playing their best basketball. They let out a tepid obligatory “boo” when the Spurs took the floor. Looking utilitarian in their drab gray and black warm ups, the no flash team stretched like nondescript convicts in the exercise yard. There is no obvious villain for Rip City to pick on - no clever slogans like “Shear the Beard” - I mean, what rhymes with Ginobili?
Ultimately, although it is no picnic being down 3-0, Portland will learn from this. With their lineup of unpretentious players, the Spurs sensational second round performance has proven that teamwork, playing unselfishly together can beat the cult of personality. This is what the Blazers have been selling all season - and to see it working in such authoritative fashion should give Rip City hope for our future.