Congratulations! We’ve made it to the conference finals and we’re perhaps two weeks from reaching the NBA finals. It’s about time. Honestly, it feels like the playoffs have been going on for months, even if it’s only been 30 days. Tomorrow is the debut of the Eastern Conference Finals, after its Western counterpart debuted tonight. Speaking of…
San Antonio Spurs 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 98: Spurs lead series 1-0
In the single most anticipated series of the playoffs, we’re off to a good start, even if the score is slightly closer than the game really was. The game was exciting and enjoyable, if on the sloppy side, and is the leader in the clubhouse for best series of the playoffs if this keeps up. Then again, game one of Sixers-Celtics was excellent, and we know how that turned out. So we’ll see.
The Spurs led throughout the first half after Manu Ginobili, who had struggled through the first two rounds, woke up and broke out some vintage Manu moves. He scored the final five points of the first quarter by splitting a double off of a pick and roll and making a layup through contact and then hitting a contested, fallaway three from the corner as time expired. However, the Thunder started to figure things out themselves and took a three-point lead into halftime. They extended the lead in the third quarter and led by nine, 71-62 early in the fourth quarter before the wheels fell off.
The Thunder went small for much of the fourth quarter, with Russell Westbrook, Derek Fisher — who started 6/6 from the field and scored 13 points — James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins logging the majority of the minutes. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but Perkins is terrible offensively and got repeatedly burned on pick and roll coverages defensively. Meanwhile, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka sat patiently on the bench as the Spurs rolled off a 21-5 run to take a 83-67 lead. The teams traded points for a few minutes until the Thunder made it 88-84 on a pair of Durant free throws. But then Stephen Jackson — who was traded twice in three days during the regular season and played excellent defense on Durant in the fourth quarter, who went just 0/2 from the field in the fourth — hit a wide open three to make it a seven point game and that was that. Then Manu one-upped him by driving and scoring and getting fouled, which made it a ten point game with just under two minutes remaining.
The Thunder did mount a token comeback, but they obviously came up short. However, gamblers everywhere had a hell of a mood swing in the final minutes. The Spurs were 5.5 point favorites going into the game, and when they took a 10 point lead, it seemed safe to assume they would cover. Then Harden cut it to four with 3.9 seconds left and it appeared the Thunder would cover instead. But then Jackson hit two free throws to make it a six point game, followed by Harden hitting another three as time expired. So basically, everyone who bet on the Spurs now hates everything.
This should be an excellent series and I’m looking forward to seeing game two and how both teams adjust after game one.
Monday, May 28th:
Boston Celtics at Miami Heat Game 1, 7:30 PM CDT, ESPN