Serge Protector

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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.

The Forgotten Team

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By Stefan Anderson

As the NBA season comes to end and the playoffs are set to begin, everybody has started to pick their favorite for the NBA Finals even their winner. The Heat are definitely the favorite win again and complete their 3 peat and the others believe it could be the Pacers or even the Thunder. What about the Spurs? Oh yeah, The Spurs, they’re good but their too old, they can’t do it again, they’re not going to win in the playoffs.  One thing the Spurs have that no other team embodies, consistency, whether it is in their criticism or their play, San Antonio is the model team in the NBA. 

The Spurs are currently 44-16 and sit 1.5 games the Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder. A year removed from their first finals appearance since 2007, where they defeated Lebron James and his then Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs were a play or two away from locking up their 5 finals win in franchise history, all under Greg Popovich but fell short after a daggering 3 pointer by Ray Allen. But since the loss in the finals, The Spurs have not lost the pep in their step.

The San Antonio Spurs have remained the cream of the crop of the NBA for the past two decades and have not received any acknowledgment for their winning efforts. Some may chastise the Spurs “boring” fundamental style of basketball, but it remains clear that all they do is win. Their brand of basketball is not one you would not want to see on a consistent basis, for what I’m not sure, but they continue to play team basketball and make everyone around them better. Their boring brand of basketball still ranks them Top-10 in PPG, Assists and Points Allowed per game.

The Spurs currently do not have one player that averages over 20 points per game, which is impressive compared to each team that depends on one player to score all the points. Some complain and say where the star power for the San Antonio is, but they still have arguably the best PF ever in Tim Duncan still averaging a double double, one the best PG’s in the league in Tony Parker, the sometimes lackadaisical Manu Ginobli and the young budding star in Kawhi Leonard. It’s not about the star power in San Antonio, it’s the players like Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, and Marco Belinelli that matter to the Spurs. They currently have 6 players that average double digits in scoring and are a great example of how to win as a team.

Since the 1999 season, San Antonio has not lost less than 50 games in a season. Their lowest win mark during that stretch was when they won 50 games in the 2012 season, where they ended up losing the young, hot Thunder teams that starred James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.  The Spurs not only have won during the regular season they have also reigned supreme in the playoffs as well. San Antonio has not missed the playoffs since the 1997-1998 season, while collecting their 4 championships during that era.

If winning doesn’t impress you then I don’t know what will. The Spurs look to be the underdog again this season after winning the Western Conference last year and remaining in the same position they were a year previous. They could make a big statement this in the playoffs again if health is by their side and could end up competing for a ring one more time, the 6th time in 2 decades. Tonight’s rematch of last year’s finals should be a great measuring stick for both the Spurs and Heat as they remain in their winning ways respectively.