The series looming between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs is one of the most intriguing series the NBA has seen for a while. It displays the classic battle of youth vs. experience.
The Spurs , lead by Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan are all at least 29 years old. Their leadership and efficiency have led to team totals of second in scoring, fourth in assists, and ninth in rebounding. The rebounding stat is especially impressive because other than Duncan their frontline is a little undersized and inexperienced.
The Spurs’ main objective will be to stop this years’ scoring champ in Kevin Durant, and they have some young, athletic forwards that might be up to the challenge. A lot of times we get caught up in their “big three”, but San Antonio has other guys on the team that have played key roles throughout the season.
Players such as Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, and Daniel Green have all come up big one time or another. Leonard’s versatility has really been important for a team that didn’t have an athletic forward last year that could match up on multiple positions. This is one of the main reasons they were defeated so early in the playoffs last year.
Splitter has matured into a solid compliment to Duncan, as the latter can’t play as many minutes as he used to. Splitter isn’t a dominant rebounder, and he doesn’t command a lot of respect on the offensive side of the court, but he runs the floor well and does all the little things necessary of him while Duncan rests.
The Spurs have flown under the radar all season long, while the Thunder’s more flashy style has landed them on ESPN nightly, but at the end of the day the Spurs have been here before and they know what it takes to win.
Other than the obvious (Durant and Russell Westbrook) the Thunder do have some other aspects going for them to give them the upper hand in the series. As I mentioned above the Spurs have some pretty impressive team statistics, and really rely on that solid play to beat their opponents, but the Thunder are right behind them at third in scoring, and actually rebound better than the Spurs do at 6th in the league.
Even though the Thunder are young in age they play a more experienced style of basketball. I think the Spurs will have trouble beating them in a seven game series because of this.
To me, the x-factor in this series is Serge Ibaka. If he can handle Duncan and Splitter inside and not let them out rebound and score him I think it will go a long way to insuring a Thunder victory. Kendrick Perkins’ big body will also be key for when San Antonio decides to put DeJuan Blair in.
All-in-all this should be very close series that displays some very technically sound basketball. My only worry is will the winner of this series be too beaten up and exhausted to take on the Eastern Conference champ?
Home court advantage will prove to be too much for the inexperienced Thunder,
Spurs in 7.