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Fresh off of one of the most devastating Finals losses ever, the San Antonio Spurs were eager for vengeance.
The championship loss surely motivated the team as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made his team watch Game 6 of The Finals, in its entirety, on the first day of training camp.
With that loss in mind, the Spurs blitzed opposing defenses all season long, racking up 110.5 points per 100 possessions without a single player averaging over 30 minutes per game. Popovich won Coach of the Year and guided the Spurs to a first-place finish in the rugged Western Conference.
The Spurs’ surge was one of many surprises out West that season. The Phoenix Suns, picked by many to finish last in the league, won 48 games behind Goran Dragic.
Eventual season MVP Kevin Durant powered Oklahoma City to 59 wins despite multiple in-season injuries to Russell Westbrook. The Portland Trail Blazers improved by 21 wins and were back in the playoffs thanks to star turns by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Lastly, the Houston Rockets, with shiny new center Dwight Howard in the mix, became a 54-win club and a serious title contender.
The competition was not quite as glamorous in the East. The Indiana Pacers got the coveted No. 1 seed but limped to a 23-19 finish after beginning the season 33-7. Defending champion Miami finished second in East as Dwyane Wade missed 28 games due to various injuries. The Chicago Bulls, despite former MVP Derrick Rose suffering another knee injury, rode Joakim Noah’s All-Star campaign to the No. 3 seed.
The Raptors and Wizards pulled themselves out of the Eastern Conference mire as well. Toronto won the Atlantic Division title behind Kyle Lowry and All-Star DeMar DeRozan while Washington was a playoff team thanks to John Wall’s All-Star transformation.
On the flip side, the New York Knicks fell to 37 wins, prompting owner James Dolan to hire 13-time NBA champion Phil Jackson as the team’s new GM. Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers won 27 games as Kobe Bryant nursed various injuries all season.
Come playoff time, NBA fans were privileged to witness one of the most entertaining first rounds ever. Of the eight first-round series, five of them went the full seven games. The 38-win Atlanta Hawks came within a few minutes of upsetting the Pacers, while the feisty Memphis Grizzlies pushed Durant, Westbrook and the Thunder to the brink of elimination.
Unfortunately, not all of the headlines during the playoffs were made on the court. LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the longest-tenured owner in the NBA at the time, infuriated executives, players and fans when he made racist comments that were obtained and released by TMZ.com. After a silent protest from Clippers’ players, commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the NBA for life and fined him $2.5 million.
In the West playoff race, the Clippers put aside the Sterling drama and ousted the Golden State Warriors in the first round. San Antonio had to sweat out a seven-game series with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland took a thrilling series against Houston in six games.
The Wizards, Pacers, Heat and Brooklyn Nets all moved on to the East semifinals, but the results were somewhat varied. Indiana cruised past Washington in six games and Miami blasted Brooklyn in five, setting up an East finals rematch.
However, the outcome was the same as the year prior, as the Heat won the Eastern Conference and returned to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season.
The Spurs continued their league-best regular season pace by trouncing the Trail Blazers in the West semis and defeating the Thunder in the West finals. The stage was set for the first Finals rematch since the Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz in 1998.
However, the series failed to live up to the same level as the 2013 Finals due to the Spurs’ utter dominance. Behind a rejuvenated Manu Ginobili and eventual NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs rolled to the NBA title in five games. They finished the series with a plus-70 point differential over the Heat, the most one-sided margin in Finals history.
For Ginobili Tony Parker, it was their fourth ring as Spurs. For Popovich and stalwart Tim Duncan it marked ring No. 5 for one of the most successful coach-player tandems in professional sports history. The Spurs displayed incredible teamwork and selflessness during their 2013-14 season, which will be remembered for years to come.
Eastern Conference first round
Indiana defeated Atlanta (4-3)
Washington defeated Chicago (4-1)
Brooklyn defeated Toronto (4-3)
Miami defeated Charlotte (4-0)
Western Conference first round
San Antonio defeated Dallas (4-3)
Portland defeated Houston (4-1)
LA Clippers defeated Golden State (4-3)
Oklahoma City defeated Memphis (4-3)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Indiana defeated Washington (4-2)
Miami defeated Brooklyn (4-1)
Western Conference semifinals
San Antonio defeated Portland (4-1)
Oklahoma City defeated LA Clippers (4-2)
Eastern Conference finals
Miami defeated Indiana (4-2)
Western Conference finals
San Antonio defeated Oklahoma City (4-2)
San Antonio defeated Miami (4-1)
Points — Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (32.0)
Assists — Chris Paul, LA Clippers (10.7)
Rebounds — DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers (13.6)
Steals — Chris Paul, LA Clippers (2.5)
Blocks — Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (2.8)
FG% — DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers (67.6)
FT% — Brian Roberts, New Orleans Pelicans (94.0)
3PT% — Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks (47.2)
Most Valuable Player — Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Rookie of the Year — Michael Carter Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
Defensive Player of the Year — Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Most Improved Player — Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
Sixth Man of the Year — Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers
Coach of the Year — Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
All-Star Game MVP — Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Finals MVP — Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs