Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs -5 (Total: 187)
SO far in the Conference Finals the two Favorites have held serve. Miami looked every bit the dominant opponent they were assumed to be before the season started, rolling the Boston Celtics behind another pair of vintage performances from Dwyane Wade and Lebron James. Ray Allen looked slowed with age and injury, and without Avery Bradley to come to the defensive rescue, it looks like it is going to be a tough (and probably short) series for the Celtics.
Out West, for three quarters the Oklahoma City Thunder looked like they might be able to finally halt the nearing-record playoff winning streak of San Antonio. Then Manu Ginobili happened, and the Spurs went from ten down to ten up in the span of about six minutes, and beat the Thunder comfortably (despite a few garbage time threes in the last few seconds). Tonight, they will try to take a commanding 2-0 lead and force the young Thunder to be perfect at home to stay alive in the series.
Game One exposed a few flaws of each team, but more so for the Thunder as they struggled to convert offensive opportunities down the stretch and too often settled for a Russell Westbrook contested look as opposed to a clean set for the three-time defending NBA scoring champ, Kevin Durant. The Spurs, as good as they are defensively, are going to struggle to find an effective matchup on Durant. It’s incumbent on the Thunder to recognize and capitalize on this – but on occasion they seem unwilling and unable to do so.
One adjustment you can expect the Thunder coaching staff to make is keeping first team All-NBA Defensive Team member Serge Ibaka on the floor more in the fourth quarter. With the defensive anchor on the bench the Spurs tallied 39 fourth quarter points and seemed to get to rim at will, especially Manu Ginobli (Kevin Durant is still looking for his shorts after that late game ball fake! Sweeeeet vintage Ginobli shiftiness….)
This is going to be a good series and yet another close and contentious game. However, there is just some magic brewing in San Antonio. There isn’t a team in the league I trust more to close out close games than the Spurs. They are efficient on offense, they have an array of clutch players who can make big plays, they shoot well from the line and they don’t make mental mistakes on defense. That’s a good recipe for a team who is tied with two minutes to go to be able to cover a five point line.
I think we are in store for another treat, but I’ll take the Spurs to cover the line with a late push.
Free Pick: San Antonio Spurs -5.