Home Featured SBM Sports: The (Slightly Late) Western Conference Finals Preview

SBM Sports: The (Slightly Late) Western Conference Finals Preview

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Time for a little honesty. I spent the holiday enjoying Orlando and turning down a timeshare salesman. I did not write my Tuesday post before Game 1 of the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder series. Now that we all know the Spurs took Game 1, I’ll preview the rest of the series and breakdown the adjustments the Thunder needs to make to have a chance. Why believe me? I picked the Thunder in five…I’m a prediction machine.

Backcourt – The point guards for both teams are the keys to each offense. Tony Parker (Bachelor of the Year) is playing great, and provides the balance for the Spurs’ three-point shooters and frontcourt attack. Russell Westbrook may be the second beat player on his team, but if he’s off, the Thunder will struggle because Kevin Durant can’t beat good teams alone. In Game 1, Parker was the better point guard and Westbrook was Westbrick; shooting inefficiently without the assists to offset his broken jumper. The Thunder definitely need Westbrook to get into the lane and knockdown the pull-up jumper that’s made him great so far in the playoffs.

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant pulled his weight, and that’s about all that went well for OKC. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter had productive games, which is a problem because the Thunder defensive front line must own the paint. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka have limited offensive games, so if they are taken advantage of on defense, the Thunder basically play 3 on 5. OKC has a great 3, but they can’t win without more support from their 7-footers.

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Bench – Top to bottom, San Antonio’s bench is better than Oklahoma City’s. While both teams have players you’d describe as “solid,” the Spurs bench has more players who are capable of a big game. How many people saw those Gary Neal shots going in? Also, the addition of Stephen Jackson midway through the season was a big pickup, and reminded several people that he is still in the league. Win/win!

The bench matchup really comes down to Manu Ginobili versus James Harden(‘s beard). A former 6th Man of the Year versus the reigning 6MOY. In Game 1, Ginobili played a much more complete game; sparking the Spurs in the second half. Harden has been up-and-down in the Playoffs this far. He has great and terrible performances which you expect from a bench player. If he can’t come up with four great performances in the next six games, the Thunder are done. Harden will at least have to outplay Ginobili every game to give his team a chance.

Coaching – Gregg Poppovich will wipe the floor with Scotty Brooks. End of analysis.

Intangibles – In a close Playoff game, you have to give the Spurs the edge in this category. The core of this team has four championships, and has seen (and overcome) it all over the past decade and change.

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The Thunder have experience that is beyond their age, but they are still learning how to win at this level. If they keep the core together, they will win a ring or two. This year, I just don’t see it. I hope I’m wrong, but as we agreed earlier…I’m a prediction machine. Gift and a curse.

That said, it’s time to predict. I see the Spurs winning in five. OKC will win one at home, but the Spurs are too balanced to lose this series.

What do you say, SBM Sports Fans? Will OKC win Game 2 on Tuesday night and take home court advantage? Can they make the adjustments necessary to advance to the Finals? Or are the Spurs just too good right now? Hit the comments and let me know!

Comment(13)

  1. I really want to see Thunder vs. Celtics, but I think it's going to be Spurs vs. Celtics.

    If you saw Game 1 last night you know the league is trying to gift a trip to the Finals for the Heat. However, I think the Celtics can actually pull a win in Game 2 before returning home. Here's to hoping! I really ain't trying to Lebron to get a ring. That's like the worse outcome for me. I don't want Duncan to get his 5th either.

    1. Those techs last night were crazy, BUT the C's need to hit the open jumpers they had to have a chance. KG played great, you think he can keep that up through the series? Ray and Pierce need to figure out their shots quickly.

      I want the Thunder to win too, I just can't see it. The Spurs are on another planet right now.

      1. Celtics have a different gear that the Heat don't really have. The Heat are talented, but that "been there before and won it" gear is all the Celtics. They miss Bradley, A TON. I think their defense can be stifling but Rondo has to play better, and Ray has to knock down OPEN shots.

        I'm not worried about Pierce. He'll eat. They learned from last year not to go balls to the wall with that him on Lebron strategy.

        1. Yeah, losing Bradley hurts. And may do them in. Now you need Ray's broken ankles to try and stay with Wade. The C's had one good quarter last night on offense. They'll need 3 a game to run with Miami. Hopefully they find whatever it was they had in the second quarter and bottle it.

  2. I agree: Spurs in five. As good as the Zombie Sonics (as Bill Simmons calls them) has looked, they should have been playing a game 6 in Los Angeles down 3-2, because the Lakers gift-wrapped two games for them. Unlike the Lakers, the Spurs aren't going to fall apart in the clutch.

    1. Hate is a strong word. I think the championsip celebration BEFORE THEY PLAYED A GAME makes it fun to root against them. If they win, it'll be fine, but I really think the Spurs are better overall. Heat have the best two players against any team though. Can't count them out completely.

  3. The Spurs are built to exploit the major flaws of this OKC team. They are basically a 3 man offensive team in the half court. The other players can only score in fastbreak situations, which are limited against SA because they rarely turn it over or take bad shots. Also they completely nullify the advantage of having 2 defensive minded bigs to protect the paint by forcing one to come out and guard a 3 point shooter. Now you can't play them together for because you're at a disadvantage both offensively and defensively. And Scotty Brooks hasn't figured out which 1 of his 2 bigs would be best in his small line up. Ibaka is best as a help defender and he doesn't have the size/mass to matchup with Duncan in post. Perkins has the size but he doesn't have the lateral quickness to defend P&R or close on 3 pt shooters. And neither will give you much on offense so its almost a lose- lose. Basically this one should be over in 5.

    1. Can't argue that. I, like a lot of people, want the Thunder to compete for the title, but they have real matchup disadvantages that you laid out here.

      Someone yesterday made a good point: the Thunder were built to beat the Lakers. At this rate, they'll have to wait out the Spurs because they just don't match up as-constructed.

      1. Well if they were built to beat Lakers then Presti deserves a standing ovation. They beat the hell outta them. But you can't blame any GM for looking in his crystal ball and not seeing the Spurs being a contender 15 years into the Duncan era. Other than keeping the rights to Splitter and trading rights to Scola, you can't argue with many of the moves they've made over the past decade. Which is amazing considering they're always drafting in late 20's. Everyone says you have to get bad to get good. Not when you have good organizational structure. At this point the Spurs system is just plug and play. Insert miscellaneous swingman here —->

        1. Agree with your last point (belief around getting bad to get good). Especially when you charge full price tickets for rebuilding teams…though Charlotte has resorted to Buy 2013 tickets, get 2014 free. That's a flawed strategy because it assumes your GM is competent and you nail the draft.

          So many teams on that get bad, then get worse plan. Hopefully my Pistons aren't one of them.

  4. Popovich will take his team to the top. My sympathies lie with OKC in this series, but I also like Popovich and think he's one of the best coaches in the league, and the way the first two games have gone I'd be surprised if OKC got a game from the Spurs. We'll see if they can figure it out at home though.

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