May 25, 2012, 2:54 AM EDT
San Antonio 50-16 (1 seed)
Oklahoma City 47-19 (2 seed)
San Antonio took the season series 2-1, however Manu Ginobili missed all of them (which might worry Thunder fans), the games were in March and earlier, bottom line these teams are different now.
OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)
San Antonio: offense 108.5 (1st in NBA); defense 100.6 (11th)
Oklahoma City: offense 107.1 (2nd); defense 100 (9th)
THREE KEY SPURS:
Tony Parker: He outdueled Chris Paul, so as his reward he gets Russell Westbrook. In one key regular season meeting between these teams Gregg Popovich asked Parker to attack Westbrook on offense, to wear him down and make him work at both ends, he did taking 29 shots and scoring 42 points. It worked. Expect a lot of that this series. On the other end, Parker is going to have to defend the pick-and-roll as well as he did last series (although don’t be shocked if Popovich has Parker cover Thabo Sefolosha and puts Danny Green on Westbrook for long stretches).
Tim Duncan: He has been fantastic in these playoffs, but the “old man” is about to be put to the test with the long and athletic Serge Ibaka shadowing him. Duncan and Parker (and Manu Ginobili) will keep the ball moving until the Spurs get open shots, but they have to produce themselves as well. Duncan has to get points inside against a big front line of Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
Kawhi Leonard: He is the guy who is assigned the impossible task of guarding Kevin Durant. Nobody is stopping as good a pure scorer as there is the game, but if he can make Durant really work for his points — keep him shooting contested long jumpers — and not be efficient, it will put pressure on the Thunder to keep up with all the points the Spurs offense will score.
THREE KEY THUNDER:
Russell Westbrook: To me, Westbrook is the key to this series. San Antonio did a great job containing Chris Paul by zoning him off when he came off the pick and moved to the wing, but that’s not how Westbrook attacks off the pick-and-roll — Westbrook prefers to come off near the top of the key and dive straight down the lane to the basket. It’s harder for the Spurs to defend and if Westbrook can get into the paint he can get the Thunder the points they will need to hang in this series and win it.
On the other end of the floor, he has to make Parker work for his shots, get the ball out of his hands and contain him on the pick-and-roll. Nothing is stopping the Spurs offense, but the Thunder need to find a way to slow it.
Kevin Durant: This is obvious, but in a series where the Thunder need to put up points they will need big, efficient nights from him. That means not all pull up jumpers, he needs to get to the rim as well. Last meeting between these teams he was 8-19 shooting, he needs to be better this time around.
James Harden: Harden is the Sixth man of the Year, but the Spurs are deeper and get fantastic bench production. Harden needs to find a way to match it or come close. Also, he’s going to be the ball handler at the end of close games – and there will be close games — and his ability to make plays for others will be key.
This will get painted as a “pass the torch” series with the rising Thunder trying to take the mantle as the next great team in the West. In reality, the Thunder are going to have to rip that torch out of the Spurs hands, San Antonio isn’t done with it.
These are the two best offenses in the association and this whole series really boils down to this — which team can get more consistent stops?
It’s going to be hard for the Thunder, despite their length and athleticism. In their regular season meetings the Spurs just carved the Thunder defense up — and San Antonio is playing better now. The Spurs offense uses pressure and fantastic ball movement to get the shots they want — at the rim, the corner three, or specific jumpers like Duncan’s 15-foot bank. The Spurs are 8-0 in these playoffs and having’t lost since you were doing taxes because they get their shots on their terms. San Antonio will wait for the eager and active Thunder defense to overreact to something then in two quick passes get a good look or a matchup they want. They did it in the regular season matchups between these teams.
Another key for San Antonio and its ball movement is good look jump shots — the Spurs will take a lot of spot-up jumpers but are getting a very good 1.18 points per possession off it so far in the playoffs (via MySynergySports). Those looks are often corner threes — Oklahoma City has to rotate fast and challenge those corner threes. The Thunder have to contest everything, something they have done well in the playoffs (top field goal percentage against on spot ups in the postseason).
Spurs biggest challenge will be defending the pick-and-roll — they have done it well in the playoffs but this will be a different look and speed. Chris Paul tried to attack them from the wing, but Westbrook will attack from the top of the key, trying to turn and run down the lane and get his own points. They have to stop him out high, make him shoot jumpers, because if he gets into the lane the Spurs lack the big-man shot blocker too stop him.
This series is fascinating because of the matchup chess that will go on. In the playoffs Popovich has liked to play Parker, Danny Green and Ginobili together — will Scott Brooks counter by going big and forcing Green to try and cover Durant? Will Parker get time defending Thabo Sefolosha so the more athletic Green can go on Westbrook? Will the Thunder ignore Serge Ibaka on the pick-and-pop, and can he make them pay for it?
This series is so close. But if it becomes a chess match, you have to like Popovich against Brooks.
Spurs in 7.
This could go either way and the only outcome that would surprise me is a team winning in less than six games. That said, in the end there will be too many Parker rainbow floaters over Ibaka’s arm, too many Matt Bonner corner threes, too many Boris Diaw or DeJuan Blair baseline cuts to catch a pocket pass and lay it in. Basically, too much Spurs offense. The Thunder will be close but when it comes to who can get enough stops to win, I like the Spurs. Barely, but the Spurs.
Jun 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
It is elimination game time — welcome to the PBT Live Blog for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. San Antonio has the 3-2 series lead now they have a chance to close it out on the road, do that and it builds the legacy of a Spurs team that will challenge the Lakers for…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:26 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan. Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:51 PM EDT
Mike Miller remained in the starting lineup, but that merely made him the guy in the way of Kawhi Leonard. This ferocious dunk gave Leonard eight early points after he made a three-point play and a 3-pointer.
Jun 18, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
MIAMI — Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that a lineup change might be possible in advance of Game 6, but wasn’t going to reveal it until absolutely necessary. “I’ll turn in my card at 45 minutes,” he said. There was no lineup change to be found when the time came, however, as three-point specialist…
Jun 18, 2013, 6:44 PM EDT
Miami has gone very small against the Spurs — and it worked at first, the Heat won a game and forced the Spurs to adjust to them. However a consequence of that has been Chris Andersen has slid out of the rotation. The Birdman’s size was key against the large Pacers front line last series,…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:59 PM EDT
Kansas’ Ben McLemore was pretty much a top three pick on everybody’s board a month ago, but he may be sliding down some boards right now. In part that is because the smooth-shooting guard out of Kansas didn’t help his cause in some recent workouts, reports Chad Ford at ESPN.com (Insider). Multiple sources told me…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT
I know, there’s some irony to Chris Bosh talking about physical play. But the thing is, he’s right — the Miami Heat have to come out with their best defensive effort they are not going on to a Game 7. They need to stick with shooters on the perimeter, make crisp rotations and stop cheating…
Jun 18, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
No. The Spurs could lose Game 6 and then win Game 7 to win the title. Previously: Is Game 5 a must-win for the Spurs or Heat?
Jun 18, 2013, 3:24 PM EDT
Although the Celtics would be in a tough spot if they don’t trade with the Clippers, Los Angeles doesn’t face the same pressure. Acquiring Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and maybe Paul Pierce is one option of many. The Clippers will continue interviewing Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw and Byron Scott, and if they choose the best…
Jun 18, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
Monta Ellis has told the Milwaukee Bucks he is opting out of the $11 million he is owed next season become a free agent this summer. As noted at the time, it would be interesting to see what teams would go after a volume shooter — he scored 19.2 points a game but shot just…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT
While the NCAA and its ridiculous rules force American college players to make their draft decisions much earlier, international players and those not in college have longer to make their decision. That deadline was today and 18 players pulled out the league announced. The biggest one we already knew, Dario Saric of Croatia. DraftExpress had…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:07 PM EDT
If the Celtics-Clippers trade is indeed dead – and like Kurt, I have my doubts – the offseason doesn’t get any easier for the Celtics. Boston is obviously ready to move on from Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, at least if it nets a certain combination of DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and first-round picks and…
Jun 18, 2013, 1:41 PM EDT
Legacies are always on the line in the NBA Finals. I wrote about that earlier and Kay Adams and I talk about the impact of legacy if the San Antonio Spurs win Game 6 Tuesday night. She also calls me out for that Heat is 6 prediction. As she should.
Jun 18, 2013, 1:24 PM EDT
Danny Green has been on fire, setting a record with 25 three pointers made — he’s passed Ray Allen and has the record for most threes in the NBA Finals. He just doesn’t seem to miss, having shot 65.8 percent from deep this series. What is stunning is the quality of looks he’s getting —…
Jun 18, 2013, 12:45 PM EDT
Trade deals come back to life more often then Freddy Krueger. I’m not willing to believe this deal is dead until I see real evidence. Meaning the Clippers hire another coach (Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw or Byron Scott) or the Celtics announce they will keep Paul Pierce and not buy him out. Until then, anything…
Jun 18, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT
Only LeBron James could average 21.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals a game through the NBA Finals and look like he is being passive and not doing enough. He has for much of the NBA Finals looked like the physically best player on the floor but one that couldn’t impose his will…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:14 AM EDT
And the people wearing tinfoil hats start screaming, “I told you so, the end of the world is neigh.” The NBA has announced that Joey Crawford will lead the crew of official in Game 6 that also includes Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer. This is the second game this series that Crawford — the most…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:54 AM EDT
As a parent, I read these stories and I cringe for the children. They are being used as pawns in the parents’ fights. Yesterday we told you how Allen Iverson’s ex-wife filed court documents that Iverson had kidnapped his children. Those children are now back with his wife and Iverson told the judge he never…
Jun 18, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
There is no doubt — Danny Green has been fantastic in the NBA Finals Look at his shooting chart, it is ridiculous from three. Green has knocked down 25 threes through five games, the NBA record, shooting 65.8 percent from beyond the arc. He has averaged 18 points a game. He has been key to…
Jun 18, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra asked the most pertinent question about Game 6 just after the end of Game 5: “Can we put together our best game on both sides of the floor in Game 6?” Over the course of a long NBA season the San Antonio Spurs built very good habits as a team —…
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