This should be one of the most highly anticipated series since the Los Angeles Lakers v. Boston Celtics NBA Finals in 2010. Rarely do we get an extremely intriguing Conference Finals. We will get both on Sunday when the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. There is so much to look forward to in this series, so let’s get it started.
San Antonio has every advantage over Oklahoma City: size, depth, and experience. The Spurs have an imposing frontline that includes basketball immortality Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, and DeJuan Blair. They have tough perimeter defenders in Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal, and Danny Green. Oh, and they have the “Red Rocket” Matt Bonner. Very rarely can someone name an entire team as that team’s strength. But with the Spurs, they don’t have a weakness, or maybe it just hasn’t been exposed yet. They have Gregg Popovich patrolling the sidelines, in pursuit of his fifth NBA championship. They have won 18 games in a row, dating back to the regular season and haven’t had much trouble so far in the playoffs, sweeping the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. Duncan has played the best basketball of his career since 2007, the last time the Spurs won the NBA championship. Ginobili is healthy and playing at a very high level. And who could forget Parker. Parker had an MVP-caliber season and hasn’t slowed down in the playoffs.
On the other side of all this is the Thunder. A young team that has risen from losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round in 2010, to losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals last season, and now they are on their way to another Conference Finals appearance, desperate to get last year’s sour taste out of their mouthes. I love the way this team is set up, even though it might not to a championship, this season. I think of this team as a company. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are co-CEO’s, James Harden makes sure everything is in order and fixes things (like the offense) to make sure it runs smoothly, and, of course, you don’t get anywhere without having men that do the dirty work. Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Thabo Sefalosha aren’t afraid to get nasty when need be. Derek Fisher is the senior executive, bringing prior winning experiences to a team that hasn’t won anything, yet.
At the beginning of the season I predicted a Thunder-Heat NBA Finals. I have stood by my pick all season, but now I am in flux. The Thunder is clearly the under-dog and may be well-in over their head with the Spurs. The Spurs have enough players to rotate on Durant throughout the course of the game. If Durant is struggling, Westbrook is going to try to take over the game. If that happens, I don’ think the Thunder will last long in the series. However, if Harden steps up and plays like everyone knows he can, the Thunder will have a legitimate shot at taking down San Antonio.
In the end, I think the Spurs will be too much for the Thunder. I am taking the Spurs to win the series in six games.