Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 11/20/14

When they won their fourth championship in nine years back in 2007 they were already being called an “old” team. Well, once again they’ve somehow resisted the concept of aging on their way to their first NBA Finals in six years. If this series taught us anything it’s that San Antonio continues to reinvent itself; finding ways to win and finding ways to adapt. Make no mistake: the Spurs had the best chance at beating the Heat than anyone in the NBA all season long, and now they get a chance to prove it. It’s fitting that the Spurs swept Memphis after holding a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals. After all, Memphis shocked the Spurs in 2011 as an eight seed. After all, the Spurs held a 2-0 lead last year before the Thunder won four straight. But this time around, San Antonio didn’t flinch and in doing so, exorcised some of the demons that have plagued the Spurs in recent years. Photo Credit: Spruce Derden, USA TODAY Sports Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were terrific all series.  Parker has completely taken over the title of “best point guard in the NBA,” controlling the tempo all series, making outstanding decisions, scoring and getting everyone involved. Duncan played superb defense and continues to show the brilliance that has marked his stellar professional career. Defensive, rebounding and positioning, that’s where Duncan will kill you every time. When you are 37 years old and you are beating everyone down the floor, and you can make Zach Randolph look very mediocre, you know you are a pretty special player. While Duncan and Parker led the way, the rise of San Antonio should not surprise you. Several players on this roster have improved considerably, including Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter. But the most important improvement, along with the progress of their “role” players, is how much the Spurs have improved defensively. We talk about the vaunted defenses owned by Memphis and Indiana, but some fail to notice that the Spurs own the third-best defensive efficiency in the league. Consider this, the Spurs ranked 11th in defensive efficiency last season, allowing 100.6 points per 100 possessions. This year? The Spurs finished third at 99.2, that’s a significant improvement by NBA standards. It’s hard to explain how much the Spurs have adjusted and tweaked in the last three years, but I’ll do my best to provide a condensed summary. Head Coach Gregg Popovich decided in 2010, after the Spurs crashed and burned against the Suns in the playoffs, that in order for his team to stay relevant, the system and the offense needed to run through Parker, not Duncan. Then he realized his team couldn’t rely on defense anymore; so he created an offensive juggernaut (the Spurs led the league in offensive efficiency last season). But after the collapse against the Thunder last season, Popovich rounded up his troops and realized that being the best on offense wasn’t enough for a title. They needed balance and they needed to be better defensively. The Spurs made an emphasis to adjust on the defensive side of the ball and they have proven just that. But this is what San Antonio does. They find a way to stay relevant; they find a way to make their team work. We always count them out. We always think they’re too old, not athletic enough. But here they are once again and frankly, I would not be surprised at all if they beat the Heat (or Pacers). This has to be one special run for San Antonio. It’s very rare for a team with the same core to have a chance to play for a title six years later. But if anyone can match the Heat’s depth it’s the Spurs. If anyone can game plan an entire defensive scheme to control the strengths of a team it’s the Spurs. They have the best point guard in the NBA, a power forward that continues to prove his excellence and the depth and size to challenge Miami. Don’t buy into the “Miami is too athletic for the Spurs” storyline. This is going to be one heck of a series. Six years ago when the Spurs won their last title, they swept the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. This time around, beating LeBron is a whole different monster. But wouldn’t that be a fitting end to one of the most remarkable periods of sustained excellence in NBA history? -Zamarripa

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