Friday, May 25, 2012

Western Conference Finals Preview: These Aren't your Father's Spurs

The NBA playoffs have been slogging along, and while we may have had a severe lack of drama, buzzer beaters, exciting offense, and generally competent basketball we have had a lot of....defense? I guess. Well, if you're still watching hoops this Spring and haven't instead started watching hockey or Storage Wars or something, we should be gearing up for a decent conference finals. Other than the 8th seeded Sixers lucking into a second round matchup with the elderly Celtics, things have gone boringly according to plan. Last year, the Mavericks surprised everyone by stomping through the playoffs and the Grizzlies were an even more surprising 8th seed, but this year everything's gone according to plan. Thankfully for us, though, that means the 4 best remaining teams in the East and West will most likely be battling it out in the league's Final Four, as it should always be really.

The Spurs and Thunder don't tip off until Sunday, but I can tell you now that this will be the best series of the 2012 playoffs thus far. And that's weird for me to say since I've been conditioned to thoroughly hate and be bored by every San Antonio Spurs playoff series since Tim Duncan was drafted (with the exception of the 99 Finals since I was far too invested to be bored). The Spurs are boring is a trope of the playoffs as ingrained as "a series doesn't start until a home team loses" or "the winner of game 1 always wins the series" or "That new show on TBS is going to blow". But now the Spurs are actually a high scoring team, and almost fun to watch. Poppovich continues to prove his COTY worthiness by getting guys like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and even Stephen Jackson to play winning ball. I'm not as in love with them as Bill Simmons but I wouldn't be surprised if they win the whole damn thing this year.

The Thunder, on the other hand, are no surprise to anyone. I think we all knew they would be a great team and fun to watch by now. They have probably the best player in the league, a dynamic point/shooting guard, the best bench player, maybe the best defender. They're stacked. The Lakers learned this last series, losing in a quick 5 games (although 2 of those were choked away by L.A.) but the Spurs should be a tougher challenge for the ThunderS. The matchups here are mostly favorable towards OKC, you would think, but the ThunderS have shown they can occasionally go through jump shooting droughts and Westbrook is liable to throw up a JR Smith like shooting outing at any time. The Spurs are disciplined veterans who never lose their cool. Will the freakish athleticism and college like crowd push OKC to a series victory? I say yes. As great as the Spurs are playing, I think this is Durant's turn this year and the young legs of the Thunders will carry them to victory over the old Spurs, regardless of how much their style of play has been beautified. It will be close, hard fought, and compelling, full of clutch shots and precision offense. Basically the opposite of what we've seen from the 2012 playoffs. So enjoy it, America. After 2 rounds of the Sixers, Pacers, Grizzlies, missed shots and scores in the 70s, You've earned it.

Thunders in 7.