NBA Playoffs 2014 - Western Conference Finals Betting Odds - San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - Game 1
In the conference semi-finals the Thunder had to play a Clipper team that had been through much turmoil with their owner and came out to play in game 1 by blowing OKC out of their own arena. The Thunder rebounded and had a highly entertaining series with the Clippers that was filled with comebacks by both teams and controversial calls by the officials. In the end the Thunder advanced in 6 games and advanced to the conference finals. OKC was hit with devastating news following the series when they learned that forward Serge Ibaka would be out for the remainder of the playoffs with a leg injury. San Antonio did not have much controversy or close games in their 5 game series win over Portland as they pretty much steamrolled their way into the Conference Final
Point Guard- Tony Parker vs. Russell Westbrook
This is a matchup of two of the top point guards in the league. Parker was dominant in the Portland series, outplaying up and coming Damian Lillard in the process. He has won 4 championships in a variety of roles with the Spurs and is at the top of his game. Westbrook is going to shoot the ball often and will sometimes have games in which he shoots a poor percentage. However he is an elite talent that stepped up big in the clincher against the Clippers while Kevin Durant had an off night.
Advantage - San Antonio
Shooting Guard- Danny Green vs. Thabo Sefolosha
Green is a typical Spurs role player who is a strong defender and outside shooter. He needs to be hitting his shots to stay on the floor late in games due to the presence of Manu Ginobili. Sefolosha is a versatile defender who has an improved outside shot. He gives the Thunder the option of moving him to power forward in a small lineup to make up for the loss if Ibaka.
Small Forward- Kawhi Leonard vs. Kevin Durant
Leonard is arguably the best defender in the league. He has the strength to guard bigger/stronger players as well as the foot speed to stay in front of quicker/faster players. He will need all of these tools and then some in his matchup in this series. Durant is clearly the second best player in the league (Lebron James) and there is a big gap between he and whomever is third. He is the MVP in the league for a reason and will also look to pick up the slack for Ibaka.
Power Forward- Nick Collison vs. Tim Duncan
Collison is a veteran who will likely fill in for Ibaka. He will not be able to replace his scoring but is more than capable of replacing his defense and rebounding.Duncan remains an elite player who will rebound and defend with the best of them along with his traditional low post game. He is truly an all time great.
Advantage- San Antonio
Center- Kendrick Perkins vs. Tiago Splitter
Perkins is known for his defense and rebounding. He may be asked to play more minutes and avoid foul trouble for the rest of the playoffs. Splitter has been coming into his own and has a knack for finding the ball.
Advantage- San Antonio
Bench- The Spurs have a versatile bench featuring Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills among others. Coach Greg Popovich is not afraid to use his bench players for extended minutes. OKC has Reggie Jackson off the bench and he may see starter like minutes with Ibaka's absence. Steven Adams will be the first big man off the bench and veteran Caron Butler can provide stability at multiple positions.
Ibaka's injury is a huge problem for OKC. The Spurs are a physically imposing team and the Thunder will likely need to play a smaller lineup and find a way to defend with a swarming defense. The problem is that they may look to play faster and that plays into the Spurs hands. Nobody is a better decision maker in an up tempo game than Parker.
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