JAmes will be presenting his case for the OKC Thunder but since my prediction at the start of the playoffs had the Spurs heading to the Finals, it falls to me to argue why experience will beat youth. Personally, I feel like the Western Conference Finals could potentially be even more important than the NBA Finals this year. Particularly considering Chris Bosh’s injury, doesn’t it seem like the Thunder and Spurs are the two best teams left in the playoffs? If the Heat get past Boston or Philly, I expect them to at least challenge the winner of the West, and possibly win, but if the Heat fall, OKC or SAS will demolish PHI or BOS. Here’s why the Spurs will win the West.
Reason #1: Been there, done that.
Is it possible for a dynasty to be underrated? The Spurs are not a glamorous team, they never have been and never will be, but they certainly know how to win. As far as this year is concerned the needle is starting to swing back as far as the discussion goes. How many times will the media say “why is nobody talking about the Spurs?” before they realize that they keep talking about the Spurs? Still, it’s not as fun to talk about a team that goes about its business quietly and avoids drama. The irrelevant Knicks, self-promotional Heat, and overhyped Lakers all carry their own inherent drama that make for more compelling TV. But at the end of the day, the Spurs’ own Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli have won 3 championships compared to the 0 won by the Thunder or even the Sonics, for that matter. (Sorry, Seattle fans. I didn’t mean to bring that up.)
Reason #2: Gregg Popovich.
Name an active coach you’d rather have for your team than Popovich. Name any coach you’d rather have than Popovich not named Phil Jackson (I think you can even make a case for Pop > Jackson but that’s another discussion). Can’t do it, can you? Watch how the Spurs play basketball, their execution is damn near flawless. If you pay attention, you will notice that when they run their offense, they often do not need to look when they pass the ball. Every player knows where their teammates are supposed to be and that they will most likely be there. Their 20+ point comeback against the Clippers looked easy. Did you see how casually Pop sat with Duncan and Parker at halftime when they were down 10? Cool and calm under pressure. Oh, and anybody who still ignorantly says the Spurs are boring doesn’t watch basketball. How often do the Spurs score under 100 points? You want boring, how about Game 6 of the Celtics and Sixers? Yech.
Reason #3: Depth.
The Thunder and the Spurs each have a winner of the 6th Man of the Year award in James Harden and Manu Ginobli but the Spurs are a deeper team. OKC relies very heavily on Durant, Westbrook, and Harden for their offense and if one of them has an awful game, they could be in trouble. The Spurs use a more balanced approach and they have collected players to fit into their system that can come off the bench and light it up. Their bench is filled with players who were starting on other teams last year or even earlier this year such as Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson. Whilt both teams are well constructed and two of the better run organizations in the league, the Spurs have a knack for signing and drafting players that fit into their system. They take castoffs and turn them into productive role players and rookies who other teams passed, such as Kawhi Leonard this year and DeJuan Blair last year, into starters.
Reason #4: Historic Dominance.
The Spurs last lost a basketball game in mid-April. They are 29-2 in their last 31 games. If this was a normal basketball season, it’s reasonable to think that the Spurs might have challenged the Bulls’ 72-win mark. How? The Spurs finished the season at 50-16. That same winning percentage translates to 62-20 for an 82-game season. However, considering the way they were playing in the latter half of the season and that the Spurs threw games away to rest players due to the schedule, you can make a case that they would have been closer to 70 wins than 60. With that said, let me reiterate that they’re 29-2. One of those losses was to Utah. Without Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker. The Spurs are really, really good.
Reason #5: Head-to-head.
The Spurs were 2-1 vs the Thunder in the regular season so…nah, I’m just kidding. That isn’t a real reason, I don’t believe that has any bearing on how this series will go. Home court advantage could play into it but I don’t feel strongly enough about it to list it as a real reason either. I’ll take the Spurs in 6. They will lose their first game of the playoffs in this series but I don’t see them losing 4.