San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder -3.5 (Total: 201) — Western Conference Finals Game Four
Sports has a funny way of pulling the rug out from under people just when it seems like they have it all figured out. The whole sporting world, perhaps feeling guilty about overlooking the Spurs for so long or perhaps after truly watching this team play in Game Two, was anointing the Spurs are the NBA Champs. No way the Heat can contend with this team! And of course, this was based on the supposition that the Celtics were long gone…
My how things have changed after a pair of dominant home performances by the “under dogs.” Boston looked fantastic last night in throttling the Heat, showing none of the predicted ill-effects of their “devastating” loss in Game Two. Ditto for the OKC Thunder in Game Three Thursday night. So can Westbrook, Harden, Durant and Co. replicate their effort again in Game Four and get the series back to level? Let’s dig into the numbers a bit and find out.
Oklahoma City’s Big Three has been awesome in the last two games. However the biggest difference in the Game Two sizeable loss and the Game Three blowout win was the contributions of the role players. Thabo Sefolosha was brilliant in Game Three, not just providing a much-needed additional offensive threat, but also in the lock-down defensive job he did on Tony Parker. Parker, who has been penetrating at will the entire postseason, was limited to just two shots inside the paint. Two. That’s all but eliminating Parker’s effectiveness. As Tony Parker himself might have said, they “cut off the head off the beast.”
The Thunder also started to switch on all screens. By putting their five best athletes on the floor together for extended stretches (Sefolosha and Ibaka – who was also awesome in Game Three), they were able to use their length and athleticism and avoid getting burned on any pick and rolls. This forced Duncan into more contested post shots; five years ago that would have equaled disaster for the Thunder, but in 2012 it plays right into their hands.
I like Oklahoma City, the best home team in the NBA, to come out quick again in Game Four and get out to an early lead. From there, once they get a little confidence, their superior athleticism will take control and push them to a series-tying victory.
Free Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder -3.5