By Josh Kramer
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Western Conference semifinals were a major bust. The city of Los Angeles (Clippers and Lakers) was entirely overmatched and mustered up one total victory. Now, the matchup everyone has been waiting for in the Wild Wild West is set. Who isn’t excited for the Spurs/Thunder showdown set to start on Sunday?
Not only did the supposedly “over the hill” San Antonio Spurs tie for the best record in the NBA, they also have won 18 straight games. The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off an emphatic thrashing of the Los Angeles Lakers. OKC has been the favorite all year long out West, and lived up to the part until the final couple of weeks of the season when San Antonio leapfrogged them for the number one seed. So despite San Antonio possessing the number one seed and cruising through the first two rounds, all records get tossed out the window. The score is 0 to 0 come Sunday.
Not only did the Spurs and Thunder finish 2nd and 3rd in the NBA in terms of scoring offense this season, they also finished 16th and 17th in terms of scoring defense. These teams put up frighteningly similar statistics during the course of the 66 game shortened season. Can you say seven game series?
Flip a coin on what “Big Three” is better. On one hand, San Antonio has the old-school trifecta featuring Parker, Duncan, and Ginobli. On the other hand, OKC has a terrific trio in Westbrook, Durant, and Harden. This series will start and end at the point guard position though. Tony Parker versus Russell Westbrook. Could you really ask for a better matchup of floor generals in the present? Apparently, Parker has already made some testy comments to fuel the fire. I will be the first one to say that Parker has had a sensational year. But be careful what you wish for. Russell Westbrook is quite possibly the greatest athlete I have ever seen play the position. Guy can score in every way known to man. Gregg Popovich has put together the greatest coaching job of his career this year. Not to mention San Antonio has the best home record in the NBA this year.
My gut is saying Thunder. They can get up and down the floor with the best of them. Have great size inside. And of course feature the best scorer on the globe in three-time defending NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant. I would by no means be surprised to see San Antonio win this series. But you better believe it is going seven games. If I were a betting man, I would take the young and exciting Thunder. It is their time. Besides, since the NBA expanded first round series to the best of seven format back in 02/03, only three teams have swept their way through the first two rounds. Those teams would be the 04/05 Heat, 08/09 Cavaliers, and 09/10 Magic. All three of them lost their next series. Expect the Spurs to be the fourth team to suffer this fate.
With a Thunder victory, we will likely get the Thunder/Heat finals matchup that we all have been dreaming of since late December. San Antonio versus Oklahoma City in essence is a dream matchup before the real dream matchup.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.