Will the San Antonio Spurs / Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Finals be similar to the Spurs / Los Angeles Clippers series or will they go six or even seven games? That remains to be seen, but I believe that when this series is over, the Spurs will stand triumphant. Here are five reasons why San Antonio will win.
The Spurs are a veteran team that know what it takes to win a championship. They know what it takes to win multiple championships and have the core group of those title campaigns intact and running on all cylinders. San Antonio will not fold under pressure. This combination of experience and poise was demonstrated in their 24 point comeback in Game 3 against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
The Spurs are healthy for the first time in a long time. If Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are not physically at 100%, they are definitely closer to it than they have been this late in a season in years. San Antonio is difficult to beat when their triple threats are not hobbled with injuries.
San Antonio is the deepest team left in the NBA playoffs. This depth helps to contribute to Reason 2 (Health) on this list by keeping minutes for their Big 3 down. The Spurs tend to go at least 10 players deep and played the entire roster (13) for two games in the Clippers series. Less playing time and more rest equals less wear and tear on the veteran stars.
I know a lot of people may disagree with the Spurs having more offensive firepower than the Thunder, but it’s true. If you don’t believe me, complete this little exercise.
Then subtract starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and sixth man Manu Ginobili from the San Antonio scoring column.
Now, if you anticipate that these 6 players will cancel each other out, where do the points come from for each team? The deciding factor will be their respective supporting casts. Let’s begin by comparing the rest of the starters for each team.
San Antonio’s Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard, and Daniel Green are combining for an average of 25.4 points over 5 playoff games. Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and Thabo Sefolosha are combining for an average of 17.2 points over 5 playoff games. The advantage goes to the Spurs.
After Ginobili, the Spurs have 5 players on the bench who can score in double figures, Tiago Splitter, Stephen Jackson, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, and DeJuan Blair. As far as consistent bench scoring, in OKC after Harden, there’s nothing but tumbleweeds. The Thunder’s Big 3 bear more of a scoring burden than their counterparts on the Spurs.
Sense of Urgency
The Spurs have to go into “carpe diem” mode, they must “seize the day”. The core of this team isn’t getting any younger and all three haven’t been healthy at the same time this deep in the playoffs in years. San Antonio has to take full advantage of this shortened season to win what could be the final opportunity for a title with Duncan, Parker and Ginobli. The Thunder are getting better every year and who knows what moves other Western Conference contenders will make in the off season and early part of next season.
The Spurs vs Thunder series should come down to experience and depth. Also don’t forget that the Spurs have long had the reputation of being a defensive team (that 24-0 run against the Clippers was a reminder). If San Antonio’s defense takes one of OKC’s three scorers out of the picture, where do they recoup those points? The Thunder are right on the brink of being the new Western Conference power. But they’re not quite there yet.