The adage that anything can happen in one game, or in one playoff series, is valid to some degree. Upsets happen in sports though more often than not the better team wins. The Spurs and Warriors begin a second round playoff series tonight. The only time these franchises have ever met in the playoffs Golden State shockingly won. It was more than 20 years ago and the upset is still mind blowing.
The year was 1991. The Spurs won the Midwest Division with a 55-27 record. It marked their second straight 50 win season. They would go on to 18 more of them over the next 22 years. The Warriors finished fourth in the Pacific that year with a 44-38 mark. Golden State managed a 14-27 record on the road during the regular season. For the Warriors, six games over .500 was their third best record over a 30 year span.
After San Antonio took game one at home 130-121, the Warriors did something that virtually never happens. Golden State won in San Antonio. The game two final score was 111-98. That was before Tim Duncan joined the Spurs. Since Duncan came aboard in 1997, Golden State has not beaten San Antonio on the road. That's right, the Warriors last won in San Antonio more than 15 years ago.
The Warriors went on to win game three 109-106 and clinch the series with a 110-97 victory in Oakland. The starting lineups in the series ending Warrior win were Rod Strickland, Sean Elliott, Willie Anderson, Terry Cummings and David Robinson for San Antonio, and Tim Hardaway, Mario Ellie, Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Jim Petersen for Golden State.
Since that series, the Spurs have won four titles, made the playoffs every year but 1997, the season they got Duncan in the lottery, and hit the 60 win mark four times. From the time that the Warriors won that series to the present Golden State has won 11 total playoff games. Four of those 11 occurred within the last two weeks. Between 1995 and 2012 Golden State made the playoffs one time. The franchise has never won 60 games in a year and last hit the 50 win mark in 1994. That Warrior team was led by Latrell Sprewell and Chris Weber.
In Las Vegas the Spurs are more than a five to one favorite to eliminate Golden State. The Warriors have already surpassed expectations and think it is unlikely Curry is going to strangle Mark Jackson anytime soon. For San Antonio, it is once again win or bust. Expectations come with winning consistently. Just don't ask the Warriors about that, unless of course you want to hear a more than two decade old story.