2014 NBA Playoffs: Despite Blowouts, Spurs-Thunder Series Delivering Drama
When the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder moved on to the Western Conference Finals, a series of close games was expected. So far through five contests, however, things haven’t gone according to plan.
The Spurs and Thunder have either been playing out of their minds or been downright awful — depending on the game. A quick recap of the series shows that not even a single game has been close:
Game 1: Spurs win by 17
Game 2: Spurs win by 35
Game 3: Thunder win by 9
Game 4: Thunder win by 13
Game 5: Spurs win by 28
Don’t let that Game 3 final tally of 106-97 fool you. The Thunder had that game well in hand with an 18-point lead with under two minutes to play until a late Spurs run made the score respectable. Ditto for Game 4 when Oklahoma City held a 19-point advantage with under five minutes to play.
Forget about getting an occasional lopsided score. Every single one has been of that variety thus far.
While the games in the Western Conference Finals haven’t been all that competitive the series has hardly been a throwaway. Despite the lack of a close game, there have been plenty of reasons to watch.
For one thing, the series is neck and neck. Each team has defended its home court and after five games, things have been as close as they can get in terms of winning games. The Spurs have certainly looked more dominant, but still hold only a 3-2 edge in the series. The Thunder are the underdogs here, but winning Games 6 and 7 is hardly out of the question for Oklahoma City.
The return of Serge Ibaka for the Thunder has been an amazing development. Initially ruled out for the series, Ibaka made a surprising comeback in Game 3. Not only did the starting power forward return sooner than anticipated, but he’s played remarkably well considering he’s not likely 100 percent. Ibaka had an off Game 5, but averaged 12 points and 7.5 rebounds (numbers relatively close to his season averages) and played excellent defense in energizing the team.
In addition, there have been some off-the-wall individual performances to watch. After a near triple double in Game 3, Russell Westbrook had 40 points and ten assists in Game 4. In Game 1, Tony Parker had a textbook night for a point guard with 14 points (on 6-of-12 shooting), 12 assists, and only one turnover. Also in that series opener, Tim Duncan turned back the clock, scoring 27 points – nearly double his season average. Danny Green shot lights out in Games 1 and 2, averaging 18.5 points per game and shooting a ridiculous 73 percent from three-point range while knocking down 11 shots from long range.
As an aside, this could also be the last time we see Derek Fisher, who might finally retire after the season – possibly to go into coaching. Fisher won’t be a Hall of Famer, but all he did was win and knock down big shots in the playoffs. Playing key roles on five championship teams, he’s had an extremely decorated career. If the Thunder are ousted, this may be the last time Fisher puts on an NBA jersey.
The games haven’t been all that close and that’s a shame. It makes it difficult to stick with the entire game and that’s clearly not benefiting the NBA. Still, there’s been far too much action to not pay attention.