I have admittedly dropped the ball with my prediction duties for the Oklahoma City Thunder's second round matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.
First, it was due to my lifelong battle with superstition. I didn't post the first postseason 5 Day Forecast until a game--a blowout at that--had been played. The Thunder would go on to win that series in five games. I felt that repeating that process would result in a repeat outcome for the Thunder in the series.
However, Game 2 happened and my superstition quickly turned into fear. After watching OKC's offense stall and the Spurs make what seemed like every shot on their way to a resounding 124-92 win, which wasn't even as close as the final score made it seem.
In our roundtable preview post I noted that I thought OKC would take San Antonio to the brink before ultimately falling in seven games. Following Game ,1 I wanted to bury my head in the sand and never return.
Then Game 2 and 3 happened and now I'm ready to get the predictions flowing once more.
05/08 vs Spurs
FORECAST: Dry Heat with Temperatures Approaching 100+ Degrees
THIS. IS. A. MUST. WIN.
The Thunder were able to snake one away in San Antonio only to have the Spurs come into OKC and do the same thing. Home court advantage is now back in the Spurs' possession and it's on OKC to hold serve at least once in this two game home set.
Game 3 showed that the Thunder can play the type of game necessary to get them a win. Yet, once again, it was their poor play late and turnovers that ultimately did them in.
Though upsetting, there's no reason for OKC to come into the game with their heads hanging low. They have shown they are capable of going toe-to-toe with the Spurs and with a little more care for the ball and sharper focus on defense they can even pull out a victory in a close game, which is exactly what I foresee this being.
PREDICTION: Thunder 99, Spurs 94
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Enes Kanter
A lot of OKC fans moaned and groaned when the experts and analysts criticized the Thunder front office for matching the Portland Trailblazers max offer sheet in the offseason. We knew the role Kanter could play for this team and knew it was a role we needed if this team were to fulfill its championship aspirations. After completely dominating in the first round series against the Dallas Mavericks he's yet to match that production in the second round. San Antonio has a deep rotation of bigs (Tim Duncan/LaMarcus Aldridge/Boris Diaw/David West/Boban Marjanovich), but outside of Duncan none is a real defensive presence inside. Any shot at victory begins with the play of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but they can't do it all every night and a double-double from Kanter can go a long way in helping the Thunder secure a victory.
05/10 AT Spurs
FORECAST: Overcast with a 60 Percent Chance of Showers
The Spurs lost the least amount of home games of any NBA team this season. They lost once during the regular season (April 10th vs Golden State Warriors) and once during the playoffs (Game 2 vs OKC).
Being one of the two teams to win in San Antonio helps to break some of the stigma that comes with playing in the AT&T center. Yet, when you only lose twice in 47 games it's safe to say the odds are in your favor.
The Thunder know this and saw firsthand in Game 1 just how good the Spurs can be playing in the comfort of their own home.
After escaping the supposedly haunted and confirmed bed bugs of the famous Skirvin Hilton Hotel--I highly doubt they actually stayed there--a rejuvenated Spurs team digs in on their home floor and takes a 3-2 edge.
PREDICTION: Thunder 88, Spurs 102
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Russell Westbrook
Following the disappointing ending to Game 3 Russ owned up to his mistakes in the post game press conference. To sum up his answers, he basically placed the late game woes on himself and said that he needs to be a better leader for the team. Westbrook is one of the best players in the NBA and him being on the court is part of the reason OKC has a shot at pulling off the upset against the Spurs. However, when facing off against a team of this caliber you're going to need your best from your stars. Westbrook has shown the ability to knife through San Antonio's defense and get to the rim. Game 3 he missed a few attempts at the rim we've normally seen him make. If the Thunder are to take another game from the Spurs on the road they will need Russ to get in the lane and convert with layups or assists.
05/12 vs Spurs
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy
Game 6 will bring a huge effort from both teams. San Antonio will look to close out this series as quickly as possible knowing with every game it gives the duo of KD and Russ a chance to catch fire LaMarcus Aldridge style. The Thunder will be fighting to keep their season alive and doing so on their home court in front of one of the greatest atmospheres in sports.
The fact that this could potentially be Durant's final home game as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder will only ratchet up the intensity that much more.
The atmosphere will be the difference in this meeting. Neither KD or Russ have had their signature game of this series. In Game 6 one, or both, will have said game.
As well as the stars taking their play up a level we could also see big contributions from the role players--namely Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Cameron Payne and Kanter.
PREDICTION: Thunder 116, Spurs 106
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Dion Waiters
Waiters Island has been an inconsistent stay to say the least for the Thunder faithful. However, in his initial trip to the postseason we have mostly been treated to the good Dion--yes I'm choosing to voluntarily ignore the inbounds forearm shiver and you should too. Against Dallas he played within himself and took advantage of the open opportunities he had and kept the step backs to a minimum. In the second round his scoring has been spotty at best. That hasn't slowed his effort though. Forgotten in the mayhem of InboundGate was the solid defense he and Andre Roberson played on Kawhi Leonard (14 points on 7/18 shooting). Game 3 saw another solid defensive effort, but Leonard was able to amass 31 points mostly on 10 free throws and a trio of wide open threes. With Waiters hitting free agency after the season more solid efforts like those in Games 2 and 3 could make Sam Presti more likely to give Dion the contract he covets in the offseason.
05/15 AT Spurs
FORECAST: FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
Not to get too biblical, but the day of judgement will be upon the Thunder as a franchise following Game 7.
This series has been a clash of the titans aside from the lopsided Game 1 win. Night after night two of the league's elite teams have battled and restored the fans' faith in the postseason.
It will be sad to see such a hard fought series come to an end, but sadly the NBA doesn't allow them to play more than seven games.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been an unsolvable riddle for the Thunder and it will remain that way. OKC must get additional help from players outside the trio of KD/Russ/Serge.
However, I think this is the game where the Spurs fully flex their muscles when it comes to depth. Multiple double-digit scorers and stout defense at the end of the game will be enough to push the Spurs over the top and into the Western Conference Finals.
PREDICTION: Thunder 104-Spurs 112
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Kevin Durant
Durant has been a staple of the Thunder franchise and OKC's culture since the Thunder moved from Seattle in 2008. When this season ends KD will become a free agent and a highly-sought after one at that. There have been many rumors of what may happen when July 1st rolls around and what teams will chase Durant--hint: ALL of them--but no one knows what the future holds. Durant is a top five player and his growth from rookie phenom to global superstar as been a true pleasure to watch. In a perfect world KD will have already re-upped with the Thunder and we OKC fans wouldn't be on pins and needles all summer. Whenever the season ends for the Thunder everything about that final game and Kevin Durant's actions/body language/etc. will be over analyzed until he signs his next contract.