Now that the dust has settled, the Western Conference Finals match is set. We have one team in the San Antonio Spurs, which year after year, are always being told that their window is closing, yet find ways to win, and we have another in the Oklahoma City Thunder, who's superstars haven't even hit their prime yet, but play like season vets. We're going to be taking a look at both teams, the journey they took to the finals, key match-ups, and my prediction on who is going to take this series.
The spurs posted a Western Conference best 50-16 record. Astonishing, considering that most of their key contributors are well over 30 years old, when conventional wisdom says a condensed season like this was suppose to wear down the older teams. They won the regular season match-up 2 games to 1, but all of those games were played without Manu Ginobili, which can be a bad thing for the Thunder. The spurs Avg. 103 points per game which ranks 2nd in the league, with their leading scorer being Tony Parker avg. 19 points per game during these playoffs. The Spurs started out the Western Conference Playoffs playing the Utah Jazz, sweeping them in 4 games. They beat them so bad that Utah Jazz player, Al Jefferson was quoted in saying “I just think we’re playing against a team that is at its peak,” Jefferson said. “I don’t see nobody beating them.” I mean I know that he was just telling the truth, but to say that when you have one game left to play in your series doesn't look good on your part. Honestly though, that's when you know you're getting beat down. When you publicly, prematurely give up. The next team that the Spurs faced, was the LA Clippers. Personally, I felt that the Clippers were going to give the Spurs a run for their money. I thought that the Clip's athletic ability would be too much for the older Spurs. Unfortunately, they didn't even take one game, or even bothered to show up for that matter. The Spurs took that series in 4 games.
The Thunder were the 2nd seed behind the Spurs in the Western Conference, posting a 47-19 record. They are an electrifying team, with Superstars Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook. They also have deep team with players like Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and Six Man of the Year, James Harden. They too avg. 103 points per game, with their leading scorer being Kevin Durant avg. 26 points per game in the playoffs. Their first round match up was the Dallas Mavericks, the team that won the NBA Title the year before. They swept the Mavericks in 4 games. Their second round match up was with the LA Lakers. They took that series 4 games to 1, with a dismantling of the Lakers in game 1, beating them by 26.
The Match ups
Perkins vs. Diaw
Perkins is a good defender, and brings toughness to the front line of the Thunder. Boris Diaw will have his hands full trying to keep Perkins out of the post, considering that Diaw isn't a natural Center. Look for The spurs to send Blair, and Duncan to play against Perkins a lot. Advantage: Thunder
Ibaka vs Duncan
Ibaka is a very athletic power forward. What he provides is defense,block shots, and a good finisher. He is still pretty raw with his post work. Tim Duncan on the other hand, is Mr. Fundamental. Sometimes, I think he's like vine, he gets better with time. In these playoffs, Duncan has seem to find the fountain of youth. He is putting up great numbers. I understand that Ibaka is very athletic, and will give Duncan a hard time, but Duncan is one of the best power forwards of all time. Duncan is very crafty, and I think that he will use that to his advantage. Advantage: Spurs
Durant vs. Leonard
Leonard is just starting out in this league. Durant is a unique talent, that in my opinion is the Best Player in the league. (Sorry to all the Lebron fans) Leonard will not be able to contain Durant. Look for coach to go to Stephen Jackson early if Leonard is getting lit up like a Christmas tree. Advantage: Thunder
Sefolosha vs. Green
Sefolosha is strictly on the floor for defense. He will give you some points from time to time, but that's not his job out on the floor. Green has been playing well through the playoffs, so expect this match-up to be a push. Advantage: Push
Westbrook vs. Parker
Westbrook is hands down a top 5 point gaurd. Tony Parker is not that far behind. Westbrook can dominate a game with his amazing ability to score. He is a true game changer. The problem is, Westbrook is his own worst enemy. Sometimes, Russell has a tendency to dominate the ball. That would be fine, but you play on the same team as Durant, and your a point gaurd. Tony on the other hand, is still one of the fastest players in the league at his age. A very crafty veteran, who knows how to use his head. Advantage: Spurs
The Thunder bench features Sixth Man of The Year, James Harden. Harden would be a starter on any other team, and expect him to be one day. The Spurs however, bring multiple guys that can contribute, and negate Harden's production. Ginobili himself, would be a starter, but has decided to come off the bench in order to strengthen it. Also, the Spurs bench features DuJuan Blair,and Stephen Jackson who are other solid contributors. Advantage: Spurs
Scott Brooks is a great coach, who has done a great job, not only with winning, but developing the Thunder's young stars. Greg Popovich in my opinion is the Greatest Coach of all time. (Sorry Phil, your in my top 2 ). In the playoffs, it's all about adjustments, and I think Pop is the best at them. Advantage:Spurs
Even though the Spurs took 2 out of 3 in the regular season, I feel like it is time for the Thunder. I think that the Thunder will take the series in 7 games. I have too much respect for the Spurs to give them any less. The Thunder will meet the Heat in the Finals, and we will get the Dream Finals that we have been waiting for.