The two top teams in the Western Conference are going to begin their gun-show tonight. There is no doubt in my mind that this could possibly wind up being one of the all-time great series when the smoke clears and the guns stop firing.
This could possibly be a series where the torch is finally passed to the next dominant team in the NBA and the new kings of the Western Conference could be crowned. On the other hand, we could have a scenario where big brother isn’t ready to give up his place among the greats. The Thunder must grab the Spurs by the horns and take the NBA by storm. They already have the attitude, but the achievement remains to be seen.
They’ve already eliminated the Lakers but the Spurs are at the top of the totem pole this season.
If they want to do that Kevin Durant must be more potent than ever. In three games vs the Spurs this season Durant has averaged 22.7 points and is shooting 27% from beyond the arch according to NBA.com. He takes about 3 less shots so you can see that he was less aggressive during these games. Its easy to say that he can’t do that here when his team needs him the most.
In watching the game film, the Spurs do an excellent job of covering Durant with multiple defenders. Expect him to see multiple bodies thrown at him throughout the series. We’ll see Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and possibly even Manu Ginobili on Durant at certain points throughout the series. If Durant is thrown off, even a little, the Thunder will lose the series.
Though Durant is the key to the Thunder’s success, James Harden will be a pivotal player in the series. The Thunder rely on him to provide a spark from off the bench where they severely lack scoring. If Harden has another poor series like he did against the Lakers the Thunder will struggle to keep up with the Spurs balanced offense that goes about 10 men deep. If Oklahoma City can get anything close to the James Harden that played in the Dallas series that will give them a huge advantage in the series.
Tony Parker will be a huge factor in this series. The Spurs when Parker is able to get to the spots he wants to on the floor he is amazing. He’s finally learned how to pass the ball more as a point guard and has been finding teammates so well all throughout the season. Within the motion offense the point guard is a pivotal position. Parker has played it perfectly all season long and has had big games vs the Thunder as well. I expect no different from him in this series.
Another interesting tidbit of information about this series is that Manu Ginobili didn’t play against the Thunder in any of the three games that the two teams played this year. Ginobili is the Spurs Swiss army knife off of the bench; he can play multiple roles including a scorer, a facilitator, and a defender. It will be interesting to see which Manu we’ll see throughout this series. It’ll also be interesting to see what increments Harden and Ginobili will play in.
I’m sure it’ll be a fast paced game as both teams are some of the top in the league in pace. What I think gives the Spurs an advantage is the ball movement that they use to get multiple players some comfortable shots. Danny Green, Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, and others aren’t going to struggle to get open looks because of the Spurs motion system and their propensity to share the ball. The Thunder have a predictable offense where you’ll be able to locate the ball because it sticks more often than not. The Spurs task on defense gets a little bit easier when that happens.
I think the Spurs will win this series in six games. At the end of the day they play a brand of basketball that is perfect on the offensive end. They’ve got a great blend of young and old players who can all get the job done and are the deepest team in the NBA. We saw the same thing with Dallas last year and the way they played in an era where dominant players reign. Ball movement conquers all and I think it will here too.