Thunder vs Spurs: Where the Men Are Made (2012 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals Game 5 Preview)

Can Ibaka take flight tonight?

Game Thread at 8 PM CDT, come discuss the game while it's on the road!

Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (#2) vs The San Antonio Spurs (#1)

Time: 8:00 PM Central Daylight Time

Place: The American Telephone and Telegraph Center, San Antonio, Texas

TV: Turner Network Television

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KSPN 710 Los Angeles

Enemy Blog(s): Pounding the Rock, 48 Minutes of Hell

Previous Meetings: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 (Series tied at 2-2)

So, regardless of what's happened in the first four games of this series, we're all even, and it's going to essentially boil down to three games. The Thunder are two wins away from the NBA Finals, and they're at the point where homecourt advantage no longer matters. No one can trot out arguments about this being a good young team that needs experience in late game situations, or how they got lucky to be this far. Fact is, these are two very talented championship contenders ready to go at it in a series that could decide the NBA championship.

Game 4 was a bit of a statistical anomaly in that Serge Ibaka hit every single one of his shots. That's never, ever going to happen again. He does do a good job of getting open looks and rolling to the basket, but his past performance has shown that his jumper can be streaky and mediocre at times, and it's not something you can rely upon as an offensive cornerstone.

However, something that can become an offensive cornerstone (at least against the Spurs) is the number of low post opportunities that were given to Ibaka and Perkins during Game 4. Perkins and Ibaka were absolute beasts in the paint, reading exactly where they needed to be on every play to get the offensive board or an easy score. The Spurs were so focused on filling the lane against the drive that they'd often forget about the weak side, like they do when they are creating their own three point attempts. Also, since Pop won't double team either of our bigs in the paint, if they can get the ball close enough to the basket in single coverage, why not let OKC's bigs go wild? It's better than some of the plays thrown out there by Russell Westbrook.

Okay, admittedly, Westbrook was decent in Game 4. And his assist numbers have gone way up. And he has played some good defense on Parker. But he's really been a frustrating player to watch in this series. He's thrown up lots of wild shots destined for nowhere, and he seems to think that he can hit it from any spot on the floor. If Ibaka and Perkins are showing sings of a Game 4 repeat, I would have no problem with Westbrook getting less offensive opportunities. His misses are killing us in a series where a few bad offensive plays can destroy your team.

Tonight's contest should be the best this series has seen yet. The Thunder have proven they can shut the Spurs down offensively and combat against their onslaught of threes. They can win despite the offensive problems of their big three. But, the question remains: Can the Thunder get over the hump and win on the road? I think KD is going to need to score 40 for us to win tonight, but that's just me. I see the Spurs overcoming their weak side weaknesses and re-focusing themselves on defensive boards. The Thunder will see some better play from their own guards, but it won't be enough to beat the Spurs on the road.

Prediction: San Antonio 109, Oklahoma City Thunder 103

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