Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs -5.5 (Total: 204.5) – Game One: Western Conference Finals
And then there were four.
The Boston Celtics followed their recipe of the past five years and toyed with their prey to the last final moment before finishing them off once and for all. The fact it took them seven games for Boston to put away the #8 seed Sixers (who were below .500 on the season) doesn’t bode well for their upcoming date with the Heat, who are as hot as their name would suggest. The Heat look like the prohibitive favorite to me, but this series certainly won’t lack for intrigue and star power.
However the main attraction kicks off tonight, the absolutely fantastic matchup between the two best teams in the NBA, Oklahoma City and the San Antonio Spurs. Both teams are deep and explosive, but play very different styles of basketball. So who has the edge in the series, and in Game One in particular? Let’s dig in and take a deeper look at this series; the matchups, the advantages, and of course, the numbers.
The Spurs enter the game boasting the longest win streak in the NBA, and one of the longest in NBA history at this point in the series. It has been nearly a month and a half since the Spurs last lost a game, and some would argue that loss was a charitable affair with Pop resting his best players ‘just because.’ They made quick work of the Jazz and turned what looked like a possibly intriguing series with the Clippers into a mere scrimmage. Prevailing wisdom would be that the “younger” and “more athletic” Thunder would be a tough matchup for the veteran Spurs. However the Spurs are 9-2 against the Thunder since 2009, and they are undoubtedly better this season than they have been in the past two.
One could argue the Thunder is better as well. Their young core now has two and half years of playoff intensity experience under their belts and hopefully the poise that tends to come with the experience. But the glaring fact remains; they have lost seven of their last eight against San Antonio, including an average margin of defeat of 14.4 points in games played at the Spurs home arena.
The matchups are spectacular, and none better than Westbrook against Tony Parker. Westbrook has the athletic edge and it physically stronger, but I like Parker’s quickness and overall floor savvy.
If you look at individual player versus individual player, you’d put your money on the Thunder. But I think that’d be a mistake. The Spurs have proved nothing this season if not that the whole is better than the sum of the parts. Now that the parts have gotten younger, quicker and better, that “sum” leaves them two wins shy of the longest postseason win streak in NBA history.
After tonight, I think they’ll only need one more. Give me the Spurs in a huge opening salvo win and cover.
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