May 14, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forwardTim Duncan
(21) reacts against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs, again, reach the Western Conference Finals. What else is new?
This is the second time the Spurs will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the years through the Conference Finals; both lost to the Miami Heat when they reached the NBA Finals.
Because the Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t force a Game 7 against the Thunder, Tony Parker will only be getting four days of rest rather than the expected six—a big difference this deep in the NBA year.
But that’s small potatoes compared to what the Thunder has to deal with.
— NOT SportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) May 17, 2014
Serge Ibaka forces Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and the Spurs bigs to stay outside the paint because of his ability to hit midrange and deep-range shots. Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins are not real offensive threats, so this could be Caron Butler‘s time to shine for OKC. Though Butler is only a small forward, he’s big and strong enough to muscle down low and will force the bigs toward the three-point line. This will create the space that Durant and Russell Westbrook need to drive into the lane and make plays.
Kevin Durant will also have to step up as a stretch-4 and even on the defensive end. Duncan will most likely go to school against a skinny youngin’ like KD, but perhaps Durant’s raw height could, at least, box out Tiago Splitter. (I know, I’m reaching).
Ibaka’s absence throughout the rest of the 2014 playoffs gives huge favor to the Spurs to win the series, but they still have to find a way to guard the league’s reigning MVP and his partner-in-crime who secretly thinks he’s the MVP.
Durant is the third-leading scorer in playoff history after pouring in 39 points in the Clippers elimination game. We know Durant is going to give Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and the Spurs defenders fits, but it’s Russell Westbrook that Tony Parker’s ankle should be most scared of.
Parker claims that he’s going to play in Game 1 versus the Thunder, but the team’s statistical leader in points and assists needs to take full advantage of the four days off.
“I haven’t seen him today,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “I saw him yesterday. I’m hopeful he’ll be ready to go. He’s going to stay off it today and tomorrow. They’re going to put him on a treadmill and a bike, and then see where we’re at. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News lays out the San Antonio Spurs Western Conference schedule:
Game 1: 8 p.m. Monday, AT&T CenterGame 2: 8 p.m. Wednesday, AT&T CenterGame 3: 7:30 p.m. Sunday (May 25), Chesapeake Energy ArenaGame 4: 8 p.m. Tuesday (May 27), Chesapeake Energy ArenaGame 5, if necessary: 8 p.m. Thursday (May 29), AT&T CenterGame 6, if necessary: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (May 31), Chesapeake Energy ArenaGame 7, if necessary: 8 p.m. Monday (June 2), AT&T Center
All games will be broadcast on TNT.
FanSided’s own Ronald Agers recaps the Portland Trail Blazers series against the Spurs, and what we learned as the Blazers head back to R.I.P. City. The Spurs bench absolutely smoked the Blazers bench, and that energy is going to be necessary against the Thunder. Danny Green stepped up, too, and he must continue to spread the floor and make plays at the defensive end for the Spurs to keep winning.
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