NBA: West Finals

By: Shawn Davis

OKC 108 @ SA 103

Teams that win Game 5 of a seven game series go on to be victorious in said series 83% of the time. Mull on that for a few seconds. (Those few seconds are up now, pay attention people.) Yesterday – if you read – I expressed that last night’s game would be the best the series had to offer (which was no small feat) and the team that had the most points at the final buzzer would have control. Now the margin for error between victory and agony for these two teams is razor-thin, but the Spurs have a higher degree of difficulty because they haven’t been getting the easy baskets they’ve been getting all year.

San Antonio plays at such an efficient level – due to their surgical passing – but OKC has been better, much better, at taking away passing lanes, jumping out on their pick-and-roll defense and defending the corner-three (a staple to the Spurs’ floor spacing) – and Popovich’s squad doesn’t look like a team that was riding a 20-game win streak just a few days ago. In the opening game of this West final, OKC led by as much as nine; but there wasn’t a single moment where I thought the Spurs would fall.

Not last night, though, not at all. In the amazing 3rd quarter where the Spurs battled back to take a brief lead before the Thunder snatched it back and beat them over the head with it; I felt Durant, Westbrook and Harden would have to be killed to lose Game 5.San Antonio didn’t have the defensive ability to get stops, at all! The OCT (Oklahoma City Triangle: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden; hearing talking tv heads plaster a “Big Three” label on every team makes me want to pour bleach in my ears) got any shot they wanted, whenever they wanted it and I was surprised to see the frustration on the faces of the Spurs.

Whoa! Last night was really happening and the Thunder was as confident as the Spurs were bewildered.

One thing that can still be exploited for the Spurs though is this: There were five HORRENDOUS possessions with the game still yet to be decided – Thunder leading by about 2-4 points – where Westbrook dribbled the air out of the ball (late into the shot clock) on two of them, which led to bad shots on his behalf, and three turnovers on the others. If the Spurs are to return to their building for a Game 7 (and not exit interviews) they have to hurt OKC when Westbrook goes off the grid and tries to do too much i.e., waving off Durant when he should always get the ball when he comes for it.

Kevin Durant has been averaging 17.4 ppg in the 2nd half of these conference finals – and the Spurs are going to have to cut that number down in order to notch a victory in Oklahoma. I picked the Spurs to win it all and I’m not going to change my stripes because they lost. Why can’t they get one in hostile territory? The Thunder just did, right?

I’m looking extremely close at this series, more than I am in the East, and the first sentence of this piece just gets louder to me – like someone is trying to convince me of something. Game 6 will be unbelievable because the home crowd will be unhinged, the Thunder will look to finish and the Spurs will fight for their postseason lives. Are you watching tomorrow? I wish the game was tonight.

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