This Thunder team is a very different team than the one that made it to the NBA Finals two years ago. They are more poised, more experienced, and they have really come together on the defensive front. Their leader, Kevin Durant, now has an MVP that he can hang on his belt. Russell Westbrook looks comfortable in his role as second fiddle. So why is it that a team with a lot of upside still does not have what it is going to take to beat the Spurs in a 7 game series?
Because the Thunder lean on Westbrook and Durant way too much. They have two crutches that have the capability of pushing the OKC to a championship ring but without the duo the team does not have a leg to stand on.
Serge Ibaka’s injury is critical becuase he is their primary source of defense. Ibaka’s shot blocking ability deters playing from penetrating the paint and his ability to guard multiple positions forced teams to shoot more then get to the paint. With him out, it is going to be very interesting to see how they address this situation. What Ibaka did not receive enough credit for was his offensive production but don’t you mind that because Durant and Westbrook will effectively cover that area.
Meanwhile the Spurs are the Spurs. The model of efficiency. The example the teams have and will continue to follow. No they are not perfect. What they have in experience, they lack in athleticism. They do not have one person they can hand the ball to and get points. So who do I believe will win?
My reason? The one super power that the Spurs pride themselves in always having is a deep bench. Outside Reggie Jackson, the Thunder do not have a player you can point to and expect the same amount of production night in and night out. This is where the Spurs beat teams. Duncan, Ginobili and Parker can all stay on the bench for most of the game, and in the fourth they come out relatively fresh. This is why the Spurs have a low turnover ratio of 11.4 as opposed to the Thunder’s turnover ratio of 14.2.
Speaking of turnovers, the Thunder’s late game turnovers is what is going to hurt them in the long run. If you have not seen it, I wrote a piece a couple week ago about why the Thunder won’t win with Westbrook playing point guard. Part of my school of thought it that in late game situations the Thunder tend to lose composure. They force a lot of shots, and have little control over the game tempo. I was slightly surprised to see the Clippers fall apart the way they did as they have played with great composure most of the season. But the way the Thunder have gotten by will not work against a Greg Popovich coached team. So who comes out on top?
The Spurs, and that is obvious to me. Defense wins you championships and I don’t believe that the Thunder will be able to shoot their way out of this series, especially without Serge. His rim protection is what got them this far- forcing teams to shoot threes because they had no other option. Without that, it is going to be hard to challenge shots at the three point line with a team that lead the league this season in assists. The Thunder will come out, and will come out swinging. They may even steal a home game. But know that when I look at the Thunder, I see an team that does not have it all figured out yet. Westbrook and Durant have had a lot of games this post season where they both take 50% or more of the team’s total shots. If one of the do not perform, I see this series unfortunately ending quickly.
So because of the experience of the Spurs,their depth that the Thunder lack, the discipline of their back court in comparison to the Thunder’s back court and Greg Popovich being a better coach then then Scotty Brooks…
I say Spurs in 6 games. Don’t mess with the best of the west.