The 2012 NBA Western Conference Finals could signal a changing of the guard in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder would reach their first NBA Finals since the team was moved from Seattle, but the San Antonio Spurs aren't going to let that happen.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a relatively young team, led by 23-year-old Kevin Durant. He leads the team in scoring during the playoffs (26.7 PPG) and rebounding (8.1 per game).
Point guard Russell Westbrook leads the floor and is also just 23. He led the team with 5.5 assists per game during the regular season, and his playoff scoring is .5 PPG higher than the regular season at 24.1.
James Harden (22) and Serge Ibaka (22) occupy two more of the starting spots.
Their center is the old man of the group and the only one to not enter the NBA with the Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder. Kendrick Perkins is 27 and was a first-round draft pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2003.
Then there are the San Antonio Spurs. The team leaders are Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. All three are in their 30s, and they have 34 years of NBA experience among them.
More importantly, every one of those 34 collective years was spent with the San Antonio Spurs, including the teams that won the NBA Finals in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The Spurs do have some youth on the team. Daniel Green is their 24-year-old guard in his second season, and rookie Kawhi Leonard is averaging 24.4 minutes and 8.5 PPG in the playoffs.
These two teams were very evenly matched in the regular season. San Antonio did win two of the three games, but their overall statistics were quite close.
San Antonio (50-16) had a slight edge in scoring (103.7 vs. 103.1 PPG), while Oklahoma City (47-19) did a slightly better job on the boards (43.7 vs. 43.0 per game).
The Spurs shot better from the field, but the Thunder had a slight lead at the free throw line.
This series won't come down to statistics, though. It will be about a franchise with longevity and experience holding off a team that relies on athleticism and youth.
The Spurs realize their window to win championships with their current stars is closing, and they have the experience and maturity to respond accordingly.
They have proven their ability to win, sweeping the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in their first two series. Added to their 10-game streak to finish the season, their last loss came well over a month ago—an April 11 loss to the Lakers.
Oklahoma City will certainly stop their winning streak but won't be able to stretch this to seven games. The Thunder will see their season end against a Texas team in the conference finals for the second straight year.