Oklahoma City Thunder
Well if you’re tired of seeing the Spurs excel through fundamentally sound execution with slow, deliberate offensive sets, then Oklahoma City is just what the doctor ordered. The defending champs came out firing against the Thunder with big games from Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, and solid defense from Shawn Marion, but the Thunder still capped the series in just four games.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THEM RIGHT NOW:
- Game one against LA showed what happens if their opponents take a game off and game two showed the team’s ability to eek out a victory when their opponent is fully up to the task.
- They can beat you in a half-court set just as easily as they can in transition. Durant, Harden, and Westbrook all have such diverse skill-sets that they’re an absolute pain for any defense to matchup against.
- As the young trio has grown together, you can really see that they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a way that a free agent acquisition couldn’t. This camaraderie truly makes it feel like they’re all in it together from start to finish.
- Ibaka and Perkins control the lane better than any other duo in the game.
- Sefolosha loves the defensive challenge of Kobe and should be prepared for whatever assignment comes his way.
MY BIGGEST QUESTIONS GOING FORWARD:
- Is the team too reliant on Westbrook’s shooting? I think it’s fair to say that no team has ever won a championship with a starting point-guard that plays the game like the multi-talented Westbrook. He can beat you in a ton of ways, but effectively running an offense isn’t his specialty. In fact, Harden’s probably the team’s best pure point-guard outside of the veteran Fischer. The team has barely squeaked out wins in the two playoff games when Westbrook shot under 30% from the field, but a team like San Antonio may be less forgiving than the Lakers and Mavs.
- Can they defend the three ball? Two of the six playoff wins would have quite possibly been losses if wide-open threes weren’t missed in the last minute by Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Blake respectively. The Thunder are undoubtedly at their best defensively when both Ibaka and Perkins are on the court, but their lack of quickness could really hurt against some of Popovich’s three-point shooting big men like Diaw and Matt Bonner.
- Can Durant supply the dagger? Now with three straight scoring titles, there’s no question at all that KD is one of the top scorers of our era, but becoming a playoff closer is a completely different story. Nine seasons into his career, LeBron is still struggling to find that playoff closing mentality and it wasn’t until Dirk’s 13th season that he finally got there. Can Durant develop the killer instinct early like Kobe and Wade or will his time have to wait?
Although Oklahoma City has played tougher opponents so far, the Spurs have been the more impressive playoff performer just in the scope of their accomplishments. If you had a pre-playoffs checklist for everything the Spurs needed to do to be successful, there would be very few – if any – boxes left unfilled. While the Thunder sit at a similarly perfect 6-0, there’ve been a couple hiccups on the road. The team that dominated the regular season hasn’t skipped a beat so far this post-season, and while the biggest tests are yet to come, San Antonio fans have to love what they’ve seen so far.