18 wins in a row. The San Antonio Spurs are rolling.
Unbeaten in this year’s NBA playoffs, the Spurs swept the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers to reach the Western Conference finals. They’ve been unstoppable.
They haven’t been tested, either, but that’s all about to change Sunday.
Here come the Thunder. The Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Spurs have the best team, but the Thunder have the two best players in the series in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in James Harden.
So make no mistake. The Spurs will lose a game in this series, but will they lose the series?
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (1) San Antonio Spurs
Game 1: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)
How they got here: Thunder def. (7) Dallas 4-0 in first round, def. (3) L.A. Lakers 4-1 in conference semifinals; San Antonio def. (6) Utah, 4-0 in first round, def. (5) L.A. Clippers 4-0 in conference semifinals.
How they REALLY got here: The Lakers blew two games and should have had a 3-1 lead heading into Monday’s Game 5 in Oklahoma City, but instead found themselves down by the same margin. Big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol didn’t impact the series as it should, leaving Mike Brown to have the task of telling Kobe Bryant to trust two guys who weren’t getting it done. Good luck with. As for the Spurs, they simply exploited the weaknesses in Blake Griffin’s game and show how championship teams close games in the fourth quarter on the road. Having Griffin and Chris Paul hurt didn’t help the Clippers, but the Spurs would have won the series even if those two were healthy.
Biggest concern for the Thunder: Tony Parker and the depth of the Spurs. Parker will make Russell Westbrook work, which may leave Westbrook’s legs weary in the fourth quarter. If the Spurs get in foul trouble, they can go to their bench and put in guys like Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and Matt Bonner and not miss a beat.
Biggest concern for Spurs: Oklahoma City’s Big 3 and interior defense. The Spurs can’t contain Durant, Harden and Westbrook. So they will play less attention to one and try to stop the other two. If those three combine to average at least 75 points, the Spurs are in trouble. With Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder can defend the post, but can either handle Duncan?
Series prediction: Thunder in 7. As good as the Spurs have been, they haven’t really been tested as a team. Sure Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have been, but guys like Danny Green, rookie Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter have not. What’s going to happen when they have to hit a shot that matters? The future is now for Oklahoma City and its leader, Kevin Durant, will show why he should be seriously considered the best player in the world.