Western Conference Final Preview – Spurs and Thunder Fans Email Each Other

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Our resident Spurs fan Josh Bolding and our resident bandwagon Thunder fan Bryson Kearl got together to make our Western Conference Finals preview through an email exchange over the weekend. You can probably guess who picked what.

Bryson

Well, Josh, let’s start here. Serge Ibaka is reportedly out for the remainder of the playoffs. This feels like a serious blow, even if the Thunder did thrive in Game 6 against the Clippers without Ibaka. Ugh. As a Spurs fan, how much less nervous are you now?

Josh

Wow. Don’t ever become a doctor, the way you break news. I hadn’t even heard this yet. I am super disappointed and angry (although the burying of Nick Collison on the bench by Scott Brooks was absolutely something to be desired).

I can’t believe it. I am less nervous but now just mad. I was looking forward to trying to avenge two straight postseason losses.

Serge Ibaka does something dirty to Tony Parker. Just his presence makes him ultra conservative on offense. When he slows down, the ball goes into the black hole that is now Tim Duncan.

I’m also super sad we won’t have an opportunity to see this.

Man I don’t even want to do this now, and probably won’t even watch the series now (I will watch this series). What say you?

Bryson

As you know, I picked the Thunder to win it all. In theory I should be devastated by this news, but I’m really just bummed. I hate it when injuries add unnecessary “what ifs” to a series. “What ifs” are only fun years later.

This series was going to be (and still probably will be) great for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most intriguing (from a basketball standpoint) was the striking contrasts of their styles. Now, the uber-athletic Thunder are just athletic. On paper, suddenly, the well-oiled-machine Spurs are clear favorites. At least that’s how I see it.

But the truth is, I kind of still like the Thunder’s chances. I picked them because both KD and Westbrook have had “the look” for much of this season. I was still pretty young when MJ and Pippen won their first title, but these Thunder remind me of them, and they mastered “the look.” Now, would the Bulls have won in ’91 if Horace Grant went out before the Conference Finals? Probably, but that’s just another “what if.”

Josh

Oh this series is far from over, and I’ll tell you what, the Spurs better take care of business early lest we run into a Ron Artest-style recovery. (P.S., PEDs need to be discussed in the NBA. Nick Calathes isn’t the first one who has touched that stuff.)

I believe the Spurs are a deeper team* except for the bigs. Somehow OKC has stowed about 5 of them away for rainy days. Like I mentioned before, Collison is the scariest in my opinion: as smart as Boris Diaw is on offense, plus his defense is stout. The one big advantage OKC will lose (hopefully) is the mental block Tony Parker has against Ibaka.

(*Disclaimer: Spurs are deeper, but as Pop pointed out in his presser today, somehow OKC’s bench players seem to have career games every time they play us. I think Derek Fisher hit 6 threes in a game against us earlier this year and Reggie Jackson went for somewhere close to 30 in another?)

If the Thunder do advance, I still don’t believe they can beat the Heat. They are too dumb in late game situations. Durant doesn’t touch the ball, Westbrook would be WAY to tempted to take Mario Chalmers off the dribble, and Scott Brooks would draw up plays where “KD can pull up or drive to the basket” (an actual quote from the Memphis series). I sat there watching the Clippers series just salivating over the idea of Pop ever having coached an athletic team. The last 5 minutes of every game was almost like watching an episode of Maury — I still don’t know who the father is.

That’s why I was so excited to play the Thunder at full strength- I wanted to see if that OKC bench could consistently produce against us at the above-average levels they did throughout the year.

Bryson

Did you just go footnote on me? Anyway, I’m not too worried about PEDs. If I knew how to use PEDs to help my pickup basketball game, I totally would.

I’m glad you brought up Reggie Jackson. I think he will be key now that Ibaka is out. His athleticism is that much more important. He’s shown glimpses throughout the year, too. But Derek Fisher? He’s dead. He’s rotting on the court. I keep waiting for Daryl Dixon to come from the stands and shoot an arrow through his skull with a crossbow. Fisher will have one or two clutch shots in this series, but the rest of the time he is a serious liability. I agree with you about Nick Collison.

I don’t agree with you about the Thunder’s chances against the Heat, though. If Ibaka were still healthy, I’d bet money on the Thunder versus LeBron James and the Team Formerly Known as the Heat. Now, I’m not as confident, but I certainly think they can do it. What have the Heat done in these playoffs to show they’re a frontrunner?

Josh

Oh man, I think the Heat are the only ones that have taken care of the business they should have taken care of on time. Also they have almost flawless late-game execution, complete with Ray Allen and Chris bosh clutch 3-point shot making. They are a Thunder team who is actually basketball smart and still has the best player in the league — although I will admit that their athleticism is lacking from previous years.

I will tell you what the series will come down to on the Spurs end. Pop trusting what brought him this far. If there is one complaint I have about Pop, is his inability to let go of the past. Pop has admitted that there are times he forgets Kawhi is on the floor on offense, and Kawhi midseason said he still doesn’t get plays called for him in a strange “oh my gosh is this a Spur complaining to the media about Pop” moment. He has to trust Manu less and get Kawhi and Patty Mills involved more in the pick-and-roll in late game situations.

Last year we beat Golden State in Game 1, coming back from a 16 point deficit in the last 3:49 seconds of the game. People like to talk about how Parker was freer because Klay Thompson fouled out (which is true). But what also happened was Tim Duncan had to run back to the locker room (some say to use the restroom), and we were able to get stops on the perimeter with Splitter and Diaw containing the pick-and-roll. With him out in the last 4 minutes and the 2 overtimes, where we won the game because Pop relied on what got him to that point.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this Spurs team is a new team. People talk about when Tim Duncan leaves they will have to rebuild, but they already have rebuilt from 2009-2011, and they need to trust it. Can’t beat OKC without a little youth and athleticism.

Bryson

In your defense, you wrote that last remark before the Heat got pummeled by the plodding Pacers in Game 1. Regardless, you’ll have to excuse me for not being impressed that the Heat beat the HornBobs and the Jay-Zs in the first two rounds, while the Thunder beat two much better teams.

I must say that I’m surprised to hear a Spurs fan advocating Pops play Duncan less in the clutch so soon after …well, you know. I mean, Duncan grabs at least one of those rebound opportunities, negating Allen’s Game 6 three pointer. Right? Come on, admit I’m right. Sorry, let’s wrap this up.

I picked the Thunder to win the title because they have the look. In such a clearly unscientific method of choosing a winner, I can’t very well back off now just because of things like logic. Sure, the key to their defense — and as you’ve pointed out, the man who keeps Parker out of the paint — is out, but “the look” doesn’t concern itself with things like that. And neither do I. My pick: Thunder in 6.

Josh

Haha, you know who also gets a rebound AND plays perimeter defense so there is a rebound to be had when Bosh sets a pick for Lebron or Ray Allen (the biggest flaw in that Duncan should have been out there argument)? Tiago Splitter. But yes, lets please wrap this up before depression sets in.

Admittedly, I had your pick before Ibaka went down, but barring the resurrection of Jeremy Lamb, which sounds like it could be a Jay-Z album, I think Spurs win this series.  I wouldn’t be surprised if OKC wins Game 1 or 2, but I also think the Spurs can win a game or two in OKC without Ibaka. I predict very high scoring games and entertaining basketball.

Key things to watch for: Whether KD can get Kawhi in foul trouble (or vice versa); how Pop tries to get Westbrook to beat them; who’s bench plays better; and watch in the 4th quarter for the Westbrook pindown screen to free up KD at the top of the key on the weakside of the court, because Pop has yet to have an answer for this play. My prediction: Spurs in 6.

Bryson

There you have it. Spurs versus Thunder. You versus me. Real basketball analysis versus “the look.” Good luck, Josh.

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2 comments on “Western Conference Final Preview – Spurs and Thunder Fans Email Each Other
  1. @Josh, Love reading your articles, man. You sound like me 5-7 years ago and make me want to get back in to NBA internet writing. I actually went to school with your siblings and a few of your cousins back in the day, and can’t remember better times than ganging up on the Lakers fans (as I’m sure you know how many there were in that area of SA) with your brother. Mad props, and keep writing.

    @Bryson, Respect. You might be the first Thunder fan I’ve ever heard of who doesn’t constantly talk about how invincible the team is (no offense to super fans of any team).

    Makings of two great potential, (mostly) UNBIASED nba.com reporters if I say so myself.

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