Both the Spurs and the Thunder head into this series rested after making quick work of two severely inferior teams.
Memphis had to walk down to the nearest Salvation Army location and just start asking people if they want to be in the NBA. Once that was done, they got their squad full of people off the street and quickly saw their dreams of making the next real-life Disney movie about a rag tag group of underdogs overcoming adversity to win a championship come to an end. The Spurs ended that in four easy games.
The AARP (Dallas) Mavericks were actually a little bit of a problem for the Thunder as OKC’s inability to finish literally any game ever saw them fail to complete a sweep. The Thunder were still able to finish it off in five, but it was interesting to see them fall apart in crunch time like they do every so often. I mean Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki and Raymond Felton are all in the Mavericks’ rotation. I am sure they weren’t upset with getting knocked out quickly as the team’s routine trips to Golden Corral can now resume.
Why San Antonio will beat Oklahoma City:
This is pretty simple. San Antonio absolutely ripped through the league this season, but sat in the shadow of the Golden State Warriors. The Spurs had the best home record in the entire league, only losing one game in 41 tries. A huge factor was the Spurs’ ability to suck the life out of opponents when playing at home. It will be near impossible for the Thunder to take a game in San Antonio.
Depth is another huge upside for the Spurs. A team does not get to 67 wins without multiple players contributing and knowing his role. This team is doing what they usually do, turning it on in the playoffs after cruising through the regular season with an outstanding record. The Spurs still have their core in Parker, Duncan, Ginobli and Leonard, but the off season additions of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West have given them yet another dynamic to use to their advantage.
By sweeping the Grizzlies, the Spurs allowed Duncan and the veterans to get enough rest to come into this series fresh and ready to go. Their superior team ball movement and ability to make all of the right passes and take the right shots will be a huge reason why they could take down the Thunder. The team takes advantage of their opportunities from beyond the arc as well, shooting a league high 41 percent from three-point land. Also, Gregg Popovich coaches the Spurs and not the Thunder, so that is something the Spurs having going for them.
Why Oklahoma City will beat San Antonio:
Billy Donovan’s Thunder squad have the same keys to winning this season lying in the same set of hands that they have all season. That would be the combined palms of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Even on a bad night, these two can take over and change the entire course of a game.Westbrook has been on an Oscar Robertson-like tear for about 15 months now, and no on is more hungry than him. Both average over 20 points per game, and are very terrifying.
The issue with the Thunder lies in their supporting cast, mostly in the fourth quarter. When plays break down in the fourth, many of the other role players basically sit down, criss-cross apple sauce and watch Durant and Westbrook get sabotaged by all five players on the opposing team. If the Thunder can correctly play team basketball in situations that matter most, they can beat the Spurs.
The Thunder will beat San Antonio if Durant and Westbrook are on fire almost every game, and they get good performances from players like Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. When the stars get help, the Thunder is one of the best teams in the NBA. When they do not, well they look terrible.
Match up to watch: Kawhi Leonard vs. Kevin Durant
Could one really pick anything else? It is one of the best scorers of an entire generation going up against one of the best defenders of a generation. Durant has so many tools on offense, that finding someone to stop him is basically like finding a good reason to download the Tidal app: it just does not exist. At 28.2 ppg, 50 percent shooting overall and 38 percent from three, Durant is going to find a way to score, no matter what.
If there is anyone that can stop Durant, it is Leonard. His freakishly huge hands and weird wingspan allow him to not only dominate on the perimeter and shut down shooters, but battle inside when someone takes him to the hoop. This is truly a battle of who can use their wingspan more effectively.
On the other side of the ball, Leonard can take advantage of Durant a little bit, but Durant’s height advantage could give Leonard some trouble. Both of these guys are going to battle for at least four games, and that is so great.
X Factor: Enes Kanter
Kanter, at times, can be an offensive force. He averaged 12.7 points in the regular season, and can stretch the floor with solid range. He is a guy to watch out for in this series. As was stated before, if he can give them 12-16 points every night with some rebounds, then Oklahoma City has a legitimate shot. He will also have to make sure he can tighten up his defensive play, as he can be a liability in that regard. Kanter is a major key to the Thunder pulling off the upset and someone that can make a huge impact on this series.
Prediction: Spurs defeat Thunder in six games
It is simply so much easier to trust the Spurs in a series like this than the Thunder. The Thunder have shown time and time again that, while the two stars might be, the rest of the team is not built for war. They have fallen apart too many times in too many big games for someone to realistically pick them to win a series against the NBA’s most consistent franchise. The Spurs have too much depth, too good of a coaching staff and too many people named Kawhi Leonard for them to drop a series like this.
Oklahoma City will take two games, because one has to account for the many times that Westbrook and Durant switch their setting to god mode and take lives. There is going to be at least one game where Westbrook has some ridiculous stat line and steals them a win. Then, the Spurs will slowly suffocate the Thunder, which sucks because who does not want to see Westbrook win a ring?
Here is were I took the featured image.