Regular Season Series: Thunder won 4-0.
Offense/Defensive Rankings: Oklahoma City Thunder: 7th ranked offense and 5th ranked defense; San Antonio Spurs: 6th ranked offense, 4th ranked defense.
Journey So Far: Thunder defeated Memphis Grizzlies 4-3 and Los Angeles Clippers 4-2; Spurs defeated Dallas Mavericks 4-3 and Portland Trail Blazers 4-1.
These two teams have been atop the Western Conference for three straight seasons. In addition, if it weren’t for Russell Westbrook’s playoff-ending injury last year, it would be the third straight season they have met in the Western Conference Finals. With Serge Ibaka being named out for the rest of the playoffs, this is the second year in a row that one of the Thunder’s top guys has been injured in the playoffs. However, is it still possible that OKC can pull off a series win to get into the NBA Finals? With a duo like League MVP Kevin Durant and dominant Russell Westbrook, of course it’s possible.
It’s quite clear that the Thunder can beat the San Antonio Spurs, just take a look at how the regular season turned out when the teams matched up. Oklahoma City ended up winning all four games against the Spurs. Let’s take a look at each of those games to see how the Thunder went on to win:
Game 1 @ OKC
First off, it’s important to say that both teams were 100 percent healthy. That’s going to play a big part in this series. The Thunder ended up winning this game 94-88, with a dominant third quarter. They outscored the Spurs 25-15 in that frame, which ended up making the difference for them. It was a low scoring game for both teams, especially for the Spurs. They were led by Tony Parker, who scored 16 points and added 7 assists and one steal. Kawhi Leonard scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Tim Duncan was held to 10 points and 8 rebounds. They had good contribution off of their bench, with Manu Ginobli scoring 12, Boris Diaw with 10 points and Patty Mills adding 9 points.
For the Thunder, they were led by Kevin Durant, who had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Serge Ibaka, who will be missed this series, scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Ibaka also did a great job of blocking the opponent’s shots, with five in this game. Russell Westbrook was almost unseen, with only 6 points and 8 assists. Reggie Jackson came off the bench and really helped them get the win, with 23 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists, while Jeremy Lamb also added 12 off the bench. It was clear that the bench production made the difference in this game.
Game 2 @ San Antonio
For their second meeting, scoring was in abundance. The Thunder won 113-100, with a 40-point second quarter. This time, Russell Westbrook led the way with 31 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists. Serge Ibaka had another productive night with 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Kevin Durant added 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Once again, their bench proved dominant, with Reggie Jackson leading them with 21 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Overall, their bench scored 44 points, outscoring the Spurs’ bench by 14.
For the Spurs, Tony Parker led the way with 23 points and 8 assists. Tim Duncan added 17 points and 10 rebounds, with Marco Belinelli taking the place of Kawhi Leonard, he added 17 points. Their bench also had a good night, with Manu Ginobli scoring 11 points and Boris Diaw adding 14 points.
Game 3 @ San Antonio
In another high scoring game, the Thunder managed to pull it out despite playing without All-Star Russell Westbrook. The Thunder ended with a 111-105 victory, led by Kevin Durant who scored 36 points and added 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Noted, Durant did turn the ball over 11 times. Replacing Westbrook was Reggie Jackson, who was very valuable in his absence. He scored 27 points and added 8 assists.
For the Spurs, Tony Parker led the way with 37 points and 4 assists. Duncan added 14 points and 13 rebounds and Belinelli also added 13 points. Their bench came out big with 35 points, 10 of which coming from Ginobli and 14 points coming from Boris Diaw.
Game 4 @ OKC
In their fourth and final meeting of the regular season, the Thunder pulled out a 12-point victory, defeating the Spurs 106-94. For the Spurs, Tony Parker was completely shut down, being held to 6 points and 3 assists. Tim Duncan scored 17 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, while Kawhi Leonard also added 17 points. Coming off the bench, Patty Mills scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Manu Ginobli did not play to get rest.
For the Thunder, Westbrook and Durant were dominant. Durant scored 28 points and added 7 rebounds, with Westbrook adding 27 points, 6 assists and 4 steals. Reggie Jackson scored 14 points off the bench and also added 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Alright, a few important points to attack about this series. The main one will probably be the absence of Serge Ibaka, who has been very valuable to the Thunder this year. Of course, without Ibaka, the Thunder are going to take a big hit. However, I believe both Nick Collison and Steven Adams will do him justice and be very productive in the frontcourt. With that being said, I don’t think his absence will be as big of a hit as everyone is making it out to be. (Don’t get me wrong, things will definitely be different). Taking a look back at the third regular season matchup between the two teams, you can see that the Thunder can beat the Spurs without Westbrook, who is way more valuable than Ibaka (No offense). The Thunder have complete faith in their bench to produce when they need it most.
Next point. I will go out on a limb and say that if Westbrook and Durant fail to outscore the Spurs’ bench, I think they will have a tough series. The Spurs’ bench production has been great all season and has been a big part of their winning. OKC needs to make sure to keep players like Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Ginobli and Belinelli from getting hot and taking over the game. If they can do that, then they should be fine.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: time to pick. After evaluating their regular season matchups and taking into effect that the Thunder will miss Ibaka, I think the Thunder will take this series in 6 games. I think they’ll win 4-2, but it will be a close series throughout. I’m excited to see the two play, who both had troubles in their opening playoff series and both improved in their second series. It’ll be an even matchup and very enjoyable to watch.
Editor’s note: This is a guess post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page, and for more NBA basketball news visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues – a fantasy basketball blog.