By Stefan Anderson
When the Western Conference Finals began, I believed that it would be highly competitive series with Oklahoma City and San Antonio. With the Spurs big 3 searching for the next title on their “closing” window, and the Thunder searching for their first title as a young core. But after the first two games of the series, I was proved wrong after the Spurs came out looking the Spurs destroying the Thunder in a fashionable manner. Allowing an average of 117 points in the first two games, the Thunder looked out of sort and looked to see a similar fate as in years prior.
But their rim protector, 3rd option on offense and best defender was missing in action.
During a game 6 win versus the Clippers, Serge Ibaka had early exit due to a calf injury and was scheduled to miss the rest of postseason, which would put the Thunder in the same predicament as last season when they lost Westbrook to a freak knee injury. But the first two games were finished; team doctors upgraded Ibaka’s status from out indefinitely to day to day, which changed a lot this series.
After watching the first two games of the series’ most believed whether Ibaka played or not that Spurs were in rare form and looked like a team determined to get their redemption and hoist up another championship trophy. But after game 3, the doubters were proved wrong after Ibaka’s return. In his return he gave his team that added scorer need after starters other than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook only scored 9 points in two games, chipping in 15 points.
His offense was an addition to the Thunder’s game plan, but was obvious for the defensive end as well. Ibaka presence was felt as it always is it, providing consistent shot blocking (he has finished with the most blocks in the past 4 seasons in the NBA), brought the rim protection his team needed. During the past 2 games, Ibaka has accounted for 7 of the 18 blocks his team has taken away from the Spurs hot offense. His presence in the post was well needed after witnessing the Spurs 66 and 54 of their points in the paint, exploiting the Thunder’s inferior front line, but when Ibaka returned he has cut those numbers down to 40 and 36 in the following games. With play like this that Ibaka was snubbed of the DPOY in the past two seasons, but his impact can be seen throughout the floor.
I don’t know what the outcome of the series is going to be but I am going to say if the past is anything like the present then the Spurs are in trouble. With the Thunder being the last Western Conference team to eliminate them in a playoff series (after erasing a 2-0 deficit ) and owning them in the season series ,without Russell Westbrook in two of those games, it appears the Thunder have the Spurs number. But u can never justify Pop’s willingness to have the other team in a chess match and just baiting them into a checkmate. I want to believe that the Spurs have one more legendary run in them before that window closes but the Thunder just don’t want any more breeze and have the opportunity to end one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history.
My Prediction: OKC in 6, I think that moment will allow them to steal one in San Antonio lead by monster game by the MVP Kevin Durant going for somewhere close to 45 and then they will close out the series at home in Oklahoma City, to set up a epic rematch for LeBron and Durant.