NBA Playoffs: Spurs vs. Thunder Preview

We Finally Get To See Spurs vs. Thunder

5/22/12 in NBA   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Mar, 16, 2012; Oklahoma City  OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) prepares to shoot a free throw during the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIREFinally, the western conference semis are over. I was so excited for those two series (Spurs vs. Clippers, Thunder vs. Lakers) and I was crushed to see how they played out. I figured that both the Spurs and Thunder would come out on top, but I was thinking in a 6 or 7 game series, not 4 and 5. I'm much more confident about this series between the Spurs and Thunder not being such a one sided affair. These two teams can ball (obviously, as they're in the conference finals). Kevin Durant is my favorite player in the league, and I'm eager to see him build his clutch postseason resume against the top seeded Spurs squad. I'm excited to see this Spurs team that STARTS Boris Diaw at CENTER keep defying critics who say they're too old to be successful in this lockout shortened season. The Spurs may be the 7th oldest team in the NBA, but they also feature a group of good young players, lead by stellar defender Kawhi Leonard, that inject energy into this team.

The matchup I'm most excited to watch in this series (besides Durant vs. whoever is trying to guard him) is Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. These two guys are speedsters who love to push the ball. Tony Parker had one of his best seasons, scoring 18.3 points per game on 48% shooting and a career-high 7.7 assists per game. Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, finished 5th in the league in scoring at 23.6 points per game. Westbrook is a crazy little firecracker on the basketball court, and it will be interesting to see if Parker can manage to find consistent offense while having to battle Westbrook on the other end of the floor. Something I'd love to see out of Westbrook, however, is for him to defer to Durant just a little bit more. Westbrook has taken more shots than Durant in 5 out of the 9 playoff games thus far, and is averaging more field goal attempts than Durant in the playoffs. Don't get me wrong, Westbrook should shoot, he's a talented scorer, but this year's scoring champ should be option number one.

I was sort of kidding before with that comment about Durant, because I truly am excited to see the matchup of Kevin Durant being defended by Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was acquired by the Spurs on the night of the 2012 NBA Draft when they traded guard George Hill to the Pacers for the draft pick with which they selected Leonard. His defensive mentality was what sold the Spurs on the 20 year-old prospect, and he hasn't disappointed. Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich is one of Leonard's biggest fans, comparing him to former Spurs' lockdown defender Bruce Bowen. "He’s aggressive and not afraid to stick his nose in it. Failure doesn’t bother him. You score on him, he doesn’t sulk and say gee coach, this and that. He goes back and tries to do it better,” Popovich said of Leonard.

May 19, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;    San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with small forward Kawhi Leonard (2)  during the first half of game three of the Western Conference semi finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.  Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRELeonard has people raving about his defense through the playoffs thus far, but this next round will be a much tougher test when he takes on NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant. Just about everyone who attempts to guard Kevin Durant faces a mismatch. He crouches when dribbling and has the quickness of a guard, then rises with his incredible length to get to the rim like a 7 footer. He's listed at 6'9'', but many believe he's actually 6'10'' or 11''. Kawhi Leonard, at 6'7'', will have to deal with that size/quickness combination which will be his toughest task. Durant has faced off against the Spurs three times already this year. The first time he managed 21 points on only 9 shots, but the second time he only scored 22 on 19 shots, then scored 25 on 19. In none of those games did Durant reach his season average of 28 points, and I am very interested to see if Leonard can continue to keep Durant contained over the length of what looks to be a rigorous playoff series.

I'm also looking forward to seeing how 36 year-old Tim Duncan fares against the monsters in the paint for Oklahoma City. He did fine against the athletic combo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the series against the Clippers (averaged 21 points and 9.3 rebounds), but can he go another round against superior athletes at his age? Many people were critical of Duncan this season, thinking his career was on its last legs, but now he's got some of those critics thinking he's got a couple more solid years. Does he continue defying his age against Serge I-block-ya and Kendrick Perkins? It'll be interesting to see.

I want to pick a team to win this series, but I can't. All I can say is that I think it's going seven games. We're going to have some nail-bitting thrillers between these two clubs. Durant's ability in the clutch makes me want to lean towards the Thunder, but then again the Spurs look like the hottest team in the league right now. In addition, the Spurs have an entire week to rest Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili's old legs (Game 1 isn't until Sunday). Gregg Popovich is usually great at taking teams out of their game plans, but when the game plan is isolation and you have three players that are highly capable of doing it (Durant, Westbrook, Harden) it's tough to take it away. All I can say is that I can't wait for this series to start and I think it'll come down to Game 7.

PS - I'll be rooting for the Thunder. I want my favorite player, Kevin Durant, to get a ring for that Hall of Fame resume.
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5/23/12   |   evilquacks101   |   858 respect

I think this will be the best series in the play-offs................It's the Spurs that will have the home court advantage. The Thunder has the talent and youth on it's side and will try to wear down the Spurs. But the Spurs will have the experience and organizational advantage.
If everyone stays healthy on both sides............The Spurs should win this, but I wouldn't mind if OKC won this either.

5/22/12   |   rosa78014   |   2 respect

Go Spurs Go !!!!! age is nothing but a number and we have all the numbers we need #21, # 09 and # 21  Ooh and not yo mention coach of the year. Enough said. San antonio get ready to see that big flag on N. IH35 

5/22/12   |   Dream_Machine   |   13476 respect

Thunder In 7.