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Thunder Over Spurs

May 27, 2012
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It’s the Western Finals that, on paper, should have been expected for months. The number one and number two seed in the conference tangle in a midwestern matchup of balanced teams (both offensively and defensively).

If I had to put money on this matchup, it would confidently on the Oklahoma City Thunder. I think the Thunder have another level in them that the Spurs don’t have. Sefolosha can limit Parker, Harden will cancel out Manu, which will leave Durant to have a one of those career series. Sorry Timmy, but Perk and Ibaka are not like the ‘bigs’ of the Clippers.

I don’t see the Spurs depth like most people. They start Boris Diaw, Danny Green, and Kawhi Leonard. If ‘Pop’ started Manu Ginobili & Stephen Jackson they wouldn’t look so deep.

Basketball old schoolists would say that this series is about team ball/balance vs. a couple of superstars. But the history of the NBA says that OKC would win this matchup. Stars who can raise their level of play each series advance. Duncan doesn’t have that ability any longer. Plus, the Thunder role players are very underrated. Perkins, Ibaka, Sefolosha, Collison, Cook…I like their versatility and toughness more than those of San Antonio.

Oh, and if you’re a matchup lush like Rick Kamla, don’t expect Westbrook & Parker to guard each other much in this series. The SG’s will check each team’s star PG…and I like Sefolosha’s defense a lot more than Danny Green’s. Edge OKC.

Despite their head coach and big three, the San Antonio Spurs have plenty of inexperience. Leonard is a rookie and Green has a lot left to prove. Tiago Splitter too is green off the bench. When I look at the Spurs roster I see many of the same faces that folded to the pressure of the Memphis Grizzlies just a year ago. Unlike SAS, the Thunder got all the way to the Conference Finals last year and are poised to take the next step.

One interesting thing to watch will be when Brooks goes to his smaller lineup of Kevin Durant at the 4. He took advantage of that against the Lakers. Mike Brown was stubborn, staying with his big lineup, all the way until game 5 when it was already too late. Pop will adjust and go small….four guards and Timmy. Brooks must adjust. It’ll be a trap…as San Antonio will fall into the trap of playing uptempo. I can see this series getting out of hand in games 3 & 4 in OKC.

The Thunder have won games numerous ways these playoffs, stepping way outside their comfort zones….fast, slow, down 7 late (three times). The Spurs, other than the comeback at the Clippers in game 3, have been on cruise control. I know what the Old…I mean, ‘Big Three’ will do, but how will Kawhi, Danny, Boris, and Tiago respond when or if they get down in the series?

We’ll find out very soon…..

 

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4 Responses to Thunder Over Spurs

  1. freshtuna on May 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    After game 1, are you still confident enough to give odds that the Thunder will win the series?

    Sefolosha had a good game, but I don’t think he limited Parker. It looked like Westbrook was guarding Tony much of the time… and TP didn’t have it going on. Harden definitely did not cancel out Manu… Ginóbili outplayed the 6th Man of THIS year. And I’m very happy with Leonard’s and Jackson’s D on Durant… forced him into taking tough shots. Tim Duncan didn’t have a particularly good game imho, but I don’t believe that Perkin’s defense was the cause.

    As far as depth is concerned, Green and Leonard didn’t play well, but I expect that they’ll be much better as the series progresses. Collison could not contain Splitter, and you completely forgot about Neal (even though I wasn’t happy about one contested three he put up). Diaw got some easy buckets despite your ‘bigs.’ I am concerned about the Spurs D on Fisher, however.

    The key point about the depth of the Spurs is that they were sharper and fresher in the fourth quarter, when it counted. The offensive rebounds and steals and 3 pt.-shot-closeouts that the Thunder were so good at doing in the first half disappeared in crunch time…. I think your starters were tired. Nothing to be ashamed about, but it’ll continue to be a problem if Coach Brooks has to play his stars heavy minutes.

    I don’t think that ‘small-ball’ is the answer for the Thunder either…. it just opened up the area around the paint for Manu, Neal, and Parker. If Ibaka is the ‘big’ in this scheme, he has to be careful about providing help D from the weakside, because our guards are very good at passing to TD/Splitter/Diaw for easy layups.

    Your reading of NBA history is a little skewed imho. Yes, we remember stars having star performances… that’s how we’re wired. But basketball is a team game, and better teams tend to win over a seven-game series. We remember MJ’s game heroics, but he didn’t advance in the playoffs for years until the Bulls built up a team around him, one that could play off his skills.

    Don’t get me wrong… I think the Thunder are a great team and I like (most of) their role players. I just happen to think that the Spurs have better and more contributing role players. If someone is having an off night, someone else is available to step in and contribute.

    As far as Memphis last year is concerned, don’t forget that the Spurs weren’t healthy in the post-season. And you might want to fear that that experience only adds motivation to their team this year.

    And here’s something else to fear. I thought the Thunder played really well for most of the game, pretty much everything except the fourth quarter. But I didn’t feel the Spurs — as a team — played particularly well, except for the stretch where they outscored the Thunder and took the lead. And I think they know it, and are very motivated to play better in game 2. In other words, the Spurs have another gear, maybe another two gears, available. If they shake off the rust and get their game back up to what they’re capable of, you’re going to see some really beautiful team/Spurs basketball.

    And if the Spurs don’t do that, and if the Thunder’s ‘hero-ball’ wins out, I’ll be sad but will root for your team in the Finals…. because the Thunder are a great team, one for its fans to be proud of.

    • Martin Knezevic on May 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Good points. Yeah, I was very surprised that Russ and TP guarded each other quite a bit. I still think the cross matchup will show itself as the seires goes on. Maybe both coaches are concerned about transition defense so it’s more of a “get who got you” matchup scheme. Ginobili completely outplayed Harden in Game 1…at least 3 times over. If it wasn’t for Manu, the Spurs would’ve been down big in the 1st half…it would’ve been a completely different ballgame. And what was James Harden on? He kept driving into the laying like he thought it was going to part…it’s the conf finals, help defense is the name of the game. Two of his offensive fouls were just plain funny. I think the real hero of Game 1 was Tiago Splitter and his paint points and drawn fouls to start the 4th…closing the gap from 9 down (71-62).
      -Knez

  2. Bakkie009 on May 29, 2012 at 4:37 am

    You probably haven’t watched many Spurs games lately. If so, you probably don’t understand much about basketball. There is something called chemistry with the Spurs. You’re right that, individually, guys like Green and Leonard aren’t that good. But they have their roles in the team and execute them perfectly, which makes the Spurs a machine.

  3. MJG on May 30, 2012 at 8:28 am

    What perceptive analysis. Spurs getting totally exposed.

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