Thunder vs Spurs: The top two seeds have made it through to the conference final and now they meet. Now, even though OKC will be missing all-star caliber power forward Serge Ibaka, they should still be able to provide plenty of challenge to the defending conference champion Spurs. Let’s take a more in-depth look into this match-up.
Backcourt: Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker pretty much cancel each other out. As great as Westbrook is at times, there are times where he is just as bad. Parker’s hamstring possibly could be an issue as well. The edge will go to whomever wins the matchup between Danny Green and Thabo Sefolosha. Advantage: Push
Frontcourt: The Ibaka injury will force Scott Brooks to play different line-ups. I see him playing small-ball a lot with Kevin Durant at power forward. Does Popovich try to match-up and go small or does he use a heavy dose of Duncan and Splitter on offense? Kawhi Leonard’s performance will loom very large in this series. No Ibaka takes away double-digit points and rebounds from OKC plus a defensive stopper. Advantage: Spurs
Bench: Gregg Popovich played this bench significant minutes throughout the year. They have been effective in the playoffs, in particular against Portland outscoring the Blazers 220-77 in their series. Scott Brooks found a reliable player in Steven Adams, who has provided muscle, toughness, and energy for OKC. Wonder how much extended time he will see in this series? Besides him and Reggie Jackson, their bench has not proven much on this stage. Advantage: Spurs
Offense: Both teams are very explosive. They do it in different ways, the Thunder love to push the envelope by running in transition while the Spurs are more methodical with a half-court oriented attack. If San Antonio gets Duncan and Splitter enough touches inside, it can nullify what Durant brings to the table. Advantage: Push
Coaching: Scott Brooks vs Gregg Popovich, not much of a match right? I think Brooks has to push the right buttons with his bench to have any chance of winning this series. Popovich has to guard against over-coaching in this series. Don’t overthink things, just coach like he has been doing. Advantage: Spurs
Intangibles: OKC will have to cope and adjust without their leading rebounder and best defender. Can the other bigs pick up the slack? San Antonio has struggled against the Thunder, especially defensively guarding Russell Westbrook. Can they find the way to stop him and Durant? Advantage: Push
I know the Thunder beat them 4-0 in the regular season, but I think it will be different this time around. The main reason is the Ibaka injury, I just believe the Spurs will be able to attack and get to the lane without Serge on the floor. Now Tony Parker will be some trouble for San Antonio because they don’t have another guy who really attacks the rim besides him. The bench of the Spurs makes the difference in what will be an entertaining series. Spurs win in 6 games.