Basketball fans are salivating over this NBA Western Conference Finals matchup.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are facing off against the San Antonio Spurs for a spot in the NBA Finals against the winner of the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics series.
Many people believe that the Thunder and the Spurs have been the most consistent teams throughout this shortened NBA season, and for that reason they believe that the winner of this series will ultimately determine who will be crowned the champion.
There are a few story lines that will determine who wins this anticipated matchup.
1. Oklahoma City's Athleticism vs. San Antonio's Experience
Everyone is aware that the Thunder are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA. Their one-two punch of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are very young, but they have become two of the most explosive players in the NBA. Serge Ibaka is also one of the Thunder's young players who's had a dominating defensive presence. Their fast-paced play and athleticism can be a cause of concern for the "aging" Spurs.
The Spurs have been the model of consistency for what seems like forever. They have been able to maintain the same nucleus of players (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) that has led them to three NBA Championships. One would assume that after a decade their skill sets would diminish and they would not be as effective. This has obviously not been the case, as they have demonstrated throughout this year and in their first two playoff series. They go to work, they win and then they go home. It has been like clockwork for this veteran Spurs team.
2. James Harden vs. Manu Ginobili
These two players can be starters on almost any other team. Despite that, the Thunder and the Spurs use these weapons off the bench, and they both have embraced this "sixth man" role on their teams. Although the overall bench play will be extremely important, especially with the Spurs having such great depth on the team, this series can be determined by the play of these two stars. If Oklahoma City wants to advance, Harden will have to outplay Ginobili, who was his greatest competition for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
3. Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant?
There have been times in the past where it seemed as if Durant and Westbrook were going against each other in regards to who would take more shots on a given night. Although Westbrook is extremely talented and one of the premier point guards in the NBA, this is Durant's team. He is the go-to guy and is the face of the franchise. For this reason, Westbrook can not force the issue in games against such a talented Spurs team.
In last year's Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks, Westbrook's struggles and over-aggressiveness were well documented. If he takes more shots than Durant, and if Westbrook takes more than 25 shots on any given night (unless he's having a great night), then the the Thunder will have trouble winning this series.
Erick Fernandez is the creator of I Want to Thank My Hood & My Psychiatrist
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