|2014 NBA Playoffs, Western Conference Finals|
|May 27th, 2014|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|8:00 PM Central Daylight Time|
|TV: Turner Network Television|
|Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), NewsRadio 1200 WOAI|
|Injury Report: All players are expected to be ready to play.|
|Previous Matchups: Game 1 (L 105-122), Game 2 (L 77-112), Game 3 (W 106-97)|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Tony Parker|
|Reggie Jackson||SG||Manu Ginobili|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Kawhi Leonard|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Tim Duncan|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Tiago Splitter|
Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison are forgotten men at the moment, but I don't believe we've written the last song about them in these playoffs. Both of them have been with the team for basically the entirety of their existence in OKC, with Nick being a carryover from the Sonic days and Thabo coming in a mid-season trade from Chicago. Both have had flashes of glory, but will moreso be remembered for their extreme commitment to a teamwork ideal.
Now, that commitment may have backfired. As the Thunder face the Spurs in a series that values athleticism and offensive production, Sefolosha and Collison find themselves outmatched. Both are very intelligent, using their life-long knowledge of the game to fuel solid careers despite a lack of athleticism or particular skill. Still, that type of thing doesn't help you against the Spurs, who very well may have the best basketball minds in the world on their coaching staff.
Again, that doesn't necessarily mean Sefolosha and Collison are done in this series. Serge's continuing recovery from his calf contusion could go wrong at any time (knock on wood), and it doesn't appear as if Jeremy Lamb is slated for a long-term role. At some point, Brooks will need some perimeter D, or he'll want to go big. It's just going to happen.
Whenever these players do come back, how they respond is key. If they find themselves playing in a lineup that doesn't necessarily have a lot of scorers on it, they need to get more aggressive about spacing the floor and confidently shooting the ball.
Of course, most of tonight's attention will continue to center around Serge Ibaka. His Game 3 performance was nothing short of heroic, especially when you consider how difficult some of the shots and blocks were. But there's no way he's able to replicate his efficiency, and I'd be perfectly content with a typical double-doubleish night from him. Mainly, his ability to generate live-ball possessions (where the Thunder receive the ball directly from a Spurs miss, turnover, or blocked shot) will be extremely important. When OKC runs with San Antonio, they always win.
A matchup that's been oddly forgotten in most people's analysis of this series has been that of Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. Both are similarly valuable to their teams, and although KD is clearly the better all around player, Kawhi really has his number defensively. Durant had literally no isolation points against Kawhi in Game 3. Instead, he grabbed the majority of his buckets in transition, against another matchup, or on the weak side. I definitely admire Durant for his opportunism and lack of wasted energy in Game 3, as he never really tried to do too much. Unless KD can prove otherwise, that appears to be the book on beating Kawhi and the Spurs for the time being. Take advantage where you can, don't get frustrated, and always grab the boards.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 108, San Antonio Spurs 107 (OT)
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!