Sunday, May 27, 2012


San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

SEASON SERIES: Spurs won 2-1
ANALYSIS: The San Antonio Spurs have rolled right along the 2012 NBA Playoffs with sweeps of the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, all while maintaining an 18-game winning streak since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on Apr. 11. The Spurs have had solid contributions from their three key players—Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker—while still being able to manage each of their minutes thanks to a deep bench and other role players.

Making it to consecutive West Finals for the first time since 1978-1980, the Oklahoma City Thunder are hoping that last season’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks enables them to grow even more and possibly make the Finals. Oklahoma City only lost one game against the last two teams to put them out of the playoffs en route to this stage. First All-NBA selection Kevin Durant continues to improve his standing as one of the NBA’s elite players, while Russell Westbrook and 2011-12 Sixth Man of the Year James Harden are both great players that make this trio as terrific as they are.

PG: Tony Parker vs. Russell Westbrook
-The fellow 2011-12 All-NBA Second Teamers square off in this round with a contrast in styles. Parker likes to get his teammates involved more, while Westbrook is a bit more aggressive with his offensive game. The key in this one will be how one performs defensively and limits the other. Parker torched Oklahoma City for 42 points and nine assists on Feb. 4, but both players played well in their Mar. 16 tilt—a Spurs win.

SG: Danny Green vs. Thabo Sefolosha
ADVANTAGE: Danny Green (Spurs)
-Although these two may have a small impact in this series, it may be one to hardly ignore. Green did not become a starter until Feb. 8, but he has provided 3-point shooting and good defense for San Antonio since then. Sefolosha’s stats are not that impressive, but what does not make the stat sheet—his perimeter defense—is something that helps out the Thunder.

SF: Kawhi Leonard vs. Kevin Durant
ADVANTAGE: Kevin Durant (Thunder)
-Like Green, Leonard is another good defender that San Antonio has. However, this could be his biggest test in this year’s playoffs as he will likely guard Durant. The runner-up to this year’s MVP award is averaging 26.7 points and 8.1 rebounds this postseason while not scoring less than 22 in that stretch. Leonard does one stat going for him, Durant only averaged 22.7 points against San Antonio this season—more than five points below his regular season average.

PF: Tim Duncan vs. Serge Ibaka
ADVANTAGE: Tim Duncan (Spurs)
-Ibaka has been a great shot blocking machine this season, turning away a league-high 241 shots and recording the 10-block plateau three times this season. But what happens when he plays against a rejuvenated Duncan? Duncan looks as if he has really turned back the clock in the playoffs. With the Spurs’ deep bench, rarely being in a closely contested game and the two sweeps, it is beneficial to Duncan, who only averaged 32.0 minutes this postseason but has his lowest defensive rating since 2003.

C: Boris Diaw vs. Kendrick Perkins
ADVANTAGE: Kendrick Perkins (Thunder)
-Diaw has seen it all this year. He started the season with the Charlotte Bobcats, but he signed with the Spurs two days after being waived from Charlotte on Mar. 21. However, I think Perkins’ championship experience wins out here. Mainly a defensive center, Perkins has come through with 14 blocks of his own and 5.9 rebounds per game this postseason.

BENCH: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
ADVANTAGE: San Antonio Spurs
-While Manu Ginobili and James Harden are two of the top sixth men in the NBA right now, the Spurs deep bench might be one of the best in the NBA. Ginobili leads the group with 11.3 points per game this postseason, while players like Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal can provide good scoring off of the bench. Oklahoma City does have Harden averaging 17.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in the playoffs. Derek Fisher’s veteran leadership and Nick Collison’s hard-nosed defense will help the Thunder. Whichever team’s bench performs better, it has a good job of winning the game. 

PREDICTION: Spurs in 6.

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