2014 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Start Tomorrow

By Bill Simpson

Apr 3, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward

Kawhi Leonard

(2) attempts to steal the ball from Oklahoma City Thunder forward

Kevin Durant

(35) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker will play in Game 1.

I repeat, Tony Parker will play in Game 1. Spurs fans can take a breath.

On the other hand…

Oklahoma City Thunder fans, I’m afraid the same cannot be said about Serge Ibaka.

Ibaka, who has been crucial to the Thunder’s run to the Western Conference Finals this year, will miss the remainder of the postseason. Ibaka is Oklahoma City’s third-best player on the roster and has developed an outside shooting touch that would have forced the Spurs big men to defend outside the paint. Now, bigs like Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter can stay at home and protect the rim, and there is less floor space for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to operate.

Serge Ibaka’s injury is so rare that only 15% of the population could have sustained it. http://t.co/va8rpOsZcBpic.twitter.com/uOSRnX4bqc

— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) May 18, 2014

Hoops Habit’s Michael Dunlap perfectly describes the current situation for the Thunder, given Ibaka’s injury:

Steven AdamsKendrick Perkins andNick Collison are going to be the main guys playing in the middle for the Thunder. Do any of those names strike fear in the hearts of would-be ball handlers? Absolutely not. In fact, not only should the Spurs be able to get to the rim with reckless abandon, they should also reap the benefit of killing the Thunder on the offensive glass.

As the defense has to rotate over to help with penetration, it’s going to leave Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter more open to scoop up offensive rebounds. A few trips with those kinds of results is going to force Thunder coach Scott Brooks to instruct his defense to collapse in the paint…which will lead to more room on the outside for guys like Danny GreenMarco Belinelli and Kawhi Leonard.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals kicks off Monday, May 19th at 9 p.m ET on TNT.

Game 2 Wednesday, May 21, 9 p.m. ET

Game 3 Sunday, May 25, 8:30 p.m. ET

Game 4 Tuesday, May 27, 9 p.m. ET

Game 5* Thursday, May 29, 9 p.m. ET

Game 6* Saturday, May 31, 8:30 p.m. ET

Game 7* Monday, June 2, 9 p.m. ET

All games will be broadcasted on TNT; Games 5, 6 and 7 will only be scheduled if necessary.

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