San Antonio Spurs’ top 5 rivals of all time, ranked
The San Antonio Spurs have won five NBA championships and have made six finals appearances. So, naturally, they have accumulated their fair share of rivals along the way.
The Spurs have never been a team to truly get heated with anyone — because it has just never been in their DNA. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have some intense playoff series.
Here are San Antonio’s five biggest rivals:
5. Houston Rockets
The Spurs and Rockets have only met in the playoffs four times, with the first two clashes coming in 1980 and 1981. Since then, San Antonio and Houston have only matched up in the postseason in 1995 and 2017.
But no one can deny the inherent rivalry between these two Texas clubs.
Most recently, the Spurs defeated the Rockets in six games three years ago in what was their first postseason run since the retirement of Tim Duncan.
Prior to that, Houston had actually won the first three series, but obviously, those were against very different Spurs teams. Duncan never actually played the Rockets in the postseason, which is a shame.
Now, the Spurs are barely a shell of what they once were and the Rockets are still trying to get over the hump.
4. LeBron James
The Spurs and LeBron James have collided in the finals three times: 2007, 2013 and 2014.
Duncan and Co. swept James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the initial meeting, and in 2013, Ray Allen famously ripped the Spurs’ hearts out of their chests with his game-tying three-pointer to force overtime in Game 6, Leading to an eventual seven-game series victory for LeBron and the Miami Heat.
San Antonio then got the ultimate revenge in 2014, dismantling James’ Heat squad in a dominant five-game effort. It gave Duncan his last ring before retiring a couple of years later.
Think about that: the Spurs have been in the Finals six times, and in half of those appearances, LeBron was on the other side.
You could also see that in 2014, Duncan and the Spurs had a clear disdain for James and the Heat based on what had happened the year prior. So this is one instance where San Antonio even seemed to have a genuine dislike for its opponent.
3. Dallas Mavericks
The other in-state rival. Unlike the Rockets, however, the Mavericks have met the Spurs a bunch of times in postseason play.
From 2001 through 2014, San Antonio and Dallas battled six times in the playoffs. The Spurs emerged victorious in four of those six meetings. Most recently, San Antonio defeated the Mavs in seven games in the first round back in 2014, paving the way to the franchise’s fifth title.
These matchups were legitimately intense.
Four of the six series went to six games or more, including a pair of seven-game sets. The chess match between Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki was always entertaining. And while the two power forwards had the utmost respect for one another, there is no doubt that a friendly rivalry existed between the two of them.
2. Phoenix Suns
Since 1992, the Suns and the Spurs have matched up in the playoffs a hefty 10 times, with San Antonio taking six of the meetings.
While the two teams had four meetings in the ’90s, most people remember this rivalry for the constant playoff clashes in the 2000s. San Antonio and Phoenix met in the postseason six times between 2000 and 2010.
The Spurs were largely dominant, winning four straight playoff matchups between 2003 and 2008. Who could forget the 2007 second-round series, where Amar’e Stoudemire was suspended for a game for leaving the bench during a fight?
Many feel that Stoudemire’s ban ultimately cost the Suns that series, as the Spurs went on to win in six and then proceeded to win a championship.
Phoenix would finally best San Antonio in 2010, sweeping the Spurs in the second round. At the time, it appeared to signal the end of an era in San Antonio. Of course, that proved to be false, as the Spurs would add another title four years later.
All in all, this is a classic rivalry. The teams have not met in the postseason for a decade, but the memories from those heated playoff series remain.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
If you put any other team at No. 1, you’re wrong.
The Spurs and Lakers have collided in the playoffs 12 times, with eight of those meetings coming since 1995. As a matter of fact, they met six times between 2001 and 2013.
While Los Angeles dominated San Antonio in the ’80s, beating the Spurs in the playoffs all four times, San Antonio rebounded in the ’90’s. They defeated the Lakers in ’95 and ’99 (the latter of which eventually resulted in a title) before the Shaq-Kobe Lakers struck back with a pair of dominant series wins in 2001 and 2002.
The clubs met again in 2003, with the Spurs coming out on top as they proceeded to hang another banner. Los Angeles then captured the ensuing two meetings in 2004 and 2008 before San Antonio swept LA in a rather uneventful first-round series in 2013. Remember Duncan laughing at Dwight Howard for complaining about a foul call?
But those battles with Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili against Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were always thrilling. They provided basketball fans with some of the best basketball we saw in the 2000s.
Oddly enough, these two squads never went to seven games. But that didn’t make their series any less exciting.
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