(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder
Many people seem to be jumping on the Spurs bandwagon and proclaiming them as the team to beat. The Spurs are without a doubt the most complete team in the NBA, they go 11 deep with quality players up and down their bench. With Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker they have a trio of players who have been their before and know what it takes to win a championship. Although the Spurs are thought of as an old team, Tony Parker is still only 29 and they get great contributions from 24 year old Danny Green, 20 year old Kawhi Leonard, and 27 year old Tiago Splitter. However, I am not completely sold on the Spurs. They did have the best record in the NBA during the regular season, but they had the best record in the Western Conference last year as well and lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies. I also do not put much stock into regular season records, especially in this shortened season where teams had to play a lot of games in very few days. In these playoffs the Spurs are 8-0, but they have not beaten a real quality contender yet. The Utah Jazz are an upstart team that snuck into the playoffs on the last day of the season. They are not yet ready to seriously contend for a title and the Spurs dispatched of them easily. The Spurs then swept the Clippers in the second round. I think the Clippers are a quality team that, if completely healthy, would have given the Spurs more trouble. However Blake Griffin was battling a sprained knee, Chris Paul had hip and groin injuries, and Caron Butler a fractured wrist. Although the Spurs have played nearly flawless basketball and don’t seem to have any noticeable weaknesses, I do think the Thunder present them with some challenges. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are good enough defenders to potentially slow down Tim Duncan. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook present the Spurs with challenges on the defensive end and the Thunder can counter Manu Ginobili with James Harden off the bench. This will be an extremely tight series but it will come down to two things: Russell Westbrook and the Spurs role players. If Russell Westbrook plays smart and is hitting that midrange jumper, the Thunder are very tough to beat. However, he also has the ability to shoot them out of games by continuing to take bad shots. It is very important for the Thunder that Westbrook plays well. For the Spurs, they need their role players to continue to knock down open shots. Danny Green, Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson, and Matt Bonner all shoot well from the outside and will get open looks. If they can continue to shoot the ball as well as they have this postseason, the Spurs will win this series. However, I am going against the popular opinion here and taking the Thunder.
My Prediction: Thunder in 7