With the Oklahoma City Thunder defeating Los Angeles Clippers 104-98 in Game 6 of their Semifinals series, the Thunder have clinched a date with the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 Western Conference Finals. Two years ago, Oklahoma City defeated the Spurs 4-2 in the Conference Finals after San Antonio had won the first two games at home.
This season, Oklahoma City swept the season series from the Spurs, but as I wrote in a previous post – both teams had injuries and different schedules when the games were played. So you cannot really read into regular season games between these two teams.
While the Thunder are a great team, they are a completely different team than what they were in 2012. James Harden was a major part of Oklahoma City’s success two years ago and now he is in Houston. With that said, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are a two-headed monster. Kawhi Leonard is the best perimeter defender and will likely be on Durant, while Danny Green may guard Westbrook.
The Spurs have struggled against teams with athleticism this season, and Oklahoma City is one of the most athletic teams in the league. Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka have also been thorns in the Spurs’ sides in recent years. The Thunder don’t play stellar defense like the Silver & Black, but have shown they can step up when it is needed.
As we have seen in these playoffs, the Spurs capitalize on their opponents mistakes. They will try to force Durant and Westbrook to take outside shots and stay out of the paint, while limiting what Jackson and Ibaka can do on the offensive end. Spurs Head coach Gregg Popovich has the upper hand in experience over Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks, and will be motivated after San Antonio lost a heartbreaking NBA Finals last June. Popovich managed his stars minutes, which allowed Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to get plenty of rest.
Health will play a part in the series as Parker left the Spurs series clinching game with a grade 1 hamstring strain, and Ibaka left Thursday’s game with a leg injury.
The bottom line is you can’t look too deeply into the Spurs-Thunder regular season games because of so many factors such as injuries, schedules, etc. Even though Oklahoma City is a difficult match-up for the Spurs, the postseason is a whole different animal.
Get ready Spurs fans, this is going to be a battle for the Western Conference crown.