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  1. #1
    So Very Close timvp's Avatar
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    While the two sweeps to begin the 2012 NBA Playoffs have been fun for the Spurs and their fans, the difficulty level is about to be raised ten notches in the Western Conference Finals. In this series, there will be intriguing matchups that could very well decide which team will survive.

    Tony Parker vs. Russell Westbrook
    This is going to be a bloodbath. Two fantastic competitors at the top of their game clashing with a ton at stake. While Parker is probably an eyelash faster, Westbrook can elevates further off the ground.

    Early in his career, I thought Westbrook was overrated. Then everyone turned on him and suddenly now I think he's underrated. Westbrook is probably the best pure athlete at point guard in the NBA and he plays very hard. He can catch fire scoring the ball and he has a well-rounded enough game to beat you multiple ways.

    Parker has been very good defensively for much of this season -- and has been especially good on D in the playoffs. But this could go down as the biggest challenge he has ever faced, especially once you consider the Spurs likely won't be able to send much help his way. Westbrook has freedom to do basically whatever he wants and he has the tools to explode at any given moment.

    On the other hand, let's not forget how much success Parker has had going back at Westbrook. Two of Parker's better games of the season came against Westbrook, including his season-high of 42 points back on Feb. 4. For the Spurs to pull this off, they need Parker at the top of his game.

    Manu Ginobili vs. James Harden
    This will be billed as Manu Ginobili 1.0 going up against Manu Ginobili 2.0. When you watch James Harden, you'll notice a lot of similarities between the two players. They're both left-handed guards who come off the bench that bring shooting, ball-handling, playmaking, passing, craftiness and a high basketball IQ to the table. It's safe to say they are the two best reserves in the NBA.

    Harden has been very good to begin these playoffs. He's authored big play after big play and his ability to get to the free throw line has been a game-changing attribute.

    Ginobili, conversely, has had a relatively slow start to the postseason. His outside shooting is off and he's just not as crisp as we've come to expect. The good news is we've seen glimpses of his greatness.

    The Spurs will need Ginobili to at least play Harden to a stand-still. It's a tall order but I believe Ginobili will rise to the occasion.

    Kawhi Leonard vs. Kevin Durant
    Although Kawhi Leonard was really good against the Clippers, there's a galactic difference between Caron Butler and Kevin Durant. If Durant isn't the best player in the NBA, he's in the conversation. In my opinion, there's no question he's the game's most potent scorer. His length, touch and courage make him virtually unstoppable.

    Welcome to the NBA, rook. Your task now is to save the Spurs season by slowing this wunderkind of a basketball player. No pressure or anything.

    We'll see if Leonard is up for the challenge. So far this year, we haven't seen any reason to think that Leonard won't give it his all. Will that be enough? Let's hope so. Hypothetically, the Spurs could go with Stephen Jackson or Danny Green on Leonard but the only Spur who has the length and footspeed to bother Durant with any type of consistency is the rookie.

    Tim Duncan vs. OKC's Frontline
    Tim Duncan has been great thus far in the postseason. But this series won't be a stroll on a St. Croix beach. The Thunder will start games with Kendrick Perkins on him, who happens to be one of the very best post defenders in the NBA. Off the bench, Oklahoma City also has Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison to throw at Duncan. Both of those guys will bang with all of their might.

    And if that isn't enough, the Thunder employ the league's best weak-side shotblocker in Serge Ibaka. Even if Duncan is able to get a clean look against that trio of low post defenders, Ibaka can come flying into the picture to negate the effort.

    Danny Green vs. Thabo Sefolosha
    These two defensive specialists could play a large role in this series. While they won't spend much time defending each other, if one of these two players can shut down an aforementioned player, that in itself could be a series-altering turn of events.

    You can bet that the Thunder will use Sefolosha on Ginobili whenever possible. Sefolosha very well could be the closest thing the NBA has to a Bruce Bowen these days. He's a tremendous one-on-one defender who cools just about everyone he faces. I also wouldn't be surprised to see OKC experiment with Sefolosha on Parker.

    Green isn't as good of a defender as Sefolosha but he's better offensively so he may be able to play more minutes this series. When he's out there, Pop will probably rotate him between Harden, Westbrook and Durant. Hopefully Green is able to do a number on Harden but he's really San Antonio's only hope of slowing down the Thunder's bench ace.

    Boris Bonner vs. Serge Ibaka
    I'm really interested to see how this plays out. Ibaka will want to be in the paint in order to block shots. The Spurs will counter with Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner -- two players who will roam out on the perimeter. If Diaw and Bonner can thrive on the outside, that could force Ibaka out of the paint ... or force OKC's coaching staff to take him out of the game.

    But that's far from a given. Even if Ibaka cheats toward the paint, the Thunder have enough long athletes who can quickly rotate to challenge shots by Diaw and Bonner. On the other end, Ibaka will have an opportunity to score against two players who can't match his athleticism or length.

    This battle between shooting and shotblocking won't get as much publicity as the other matchups mentioned in this thread, however it could prove to be just as vital.

    Gary Neal vs. Derek Fisher
    In Derek Fisher, Gary Neal will go up against someone who is just as slow . On paper, Neal should be able to stick with the 37-year-old Fisher. Unfortunately, Fisher has a bad habit of having success against the Spurs even when paper doesn't give him much hope.

    Defensively, Neal has to do anything but give Fisher open three-pointers. Fisher has been on fire from distance in these playoffs. On offense, Neal's job will be to attack Fisher and look to score early and often.

    Depth vs. Stamina
    The Spurs have a fivesome off the bench in Neal, Ginobili, Jackson, Bonner and Tiago Splitter that are all part of the everyday rotation. San Antonio runs a ten-man rotation and is very likely to continue doing so against the Thunder.

    Oklahoma City isn't quite as deep (they play about eight and a half players) but they make up for it with stamina. Durant averages more than 40 minutes per game in the playoffs and can play the entire second half of a game without breaking a sweat. Westbrook is also more than capable of playing long stretches without rest.

    Traditionally in playoff basketball, especially when two teams are evenly matched, superstar stamina wins out over depth. To buck tradition, San Antonio's bench is going to have to play at an extremely high level this series. Otherwise, the eulogy to this Spurs season will include a passage about the Thunder's young legs simply being too much to overcome.




    This may very well be the most complex series the Spurs have ever had to prepare for in the Tim Duncan Era. There is so much to consider and so many important matchups. It's going to be good.

    Believe.

  2. #2
    spurs 4 life Manu-20's Avatar
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    All valid points but im still sticking to my prediction spurs in 5 games.
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    GO SPURS GO

  3. #3
    Lottery Pick jaffies's Avatar
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    Finally, timvp.
    Some people need to start working on their articles for tomorrow, and get some sleep.
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    R.I.P. Whottt

  4. #4
    \(ツ)/ VBM's Avatar
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  5. #5
    Still rollin' NASpurs's Avatar
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    Did you also have a Lakers preview like your Grizzlies preview you had to discard?

  6. #6
    Hedo Layup Drill ShoogarBear's Avatar
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    Um, you seem to have forgotten one matchup.

    _____________________________

    "It's a new breed," Keeton said. "They're urban raccoons, and they're not afraid."
    i swear, some of you spurs fans are the most insensitive people in the history of humankind.
    Michael Jordan only won those championships because no one else wanted them at the time.
    I need circus music to watch Redskins special teams.

  7. #7
    Spur-taaaa TDMVPDPOY's Avatar
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    i got spurs in 4....

  8. #8
    Homer 2centsworth's Avatar
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    Major mismatches for us: our frontline chemistry and firepower
    Our bench

  9. #9
    Go Spurs Go!! dbreiden83080's Avatar
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    Pop gets a ton of unwarranted hate around here.. He may be the key to the series. OKC is young all the way around including the HC.. Pop must coach a fantastic series...

    That said i think it is going 7...

    Spurs in 7..........
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  10. #10
    PRICELESS SPURS FAN polandprzem's Avatar
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    Um, you seem to have forgotten one matchup.

    Which one?














































    _____________________________
    What do they know?
    Do you have tv in Poland?/Do you use forks and knives in poland? - Mrs. Tlong
    They have basketball courts in Poland? -batman2883
    Do you have indoor plumbing in Poland? -SpursWoman
    Can you dunk ? Is there dunking in Poland ? - ORION
    Are there IQ's in Poland?/They have forums in poland? – mcornelio
    Do they have porno in Poland? - Trainwreck
    Do they have 1000-pound women in Poland? - Extra Stout
    Do you all have retards in Poland? / Do women work in Poland? / Do women shave their underarms in Poland? / Do you have McDonald's in Poland? / Are there any Mexicans in Poland? / Do you have a playstation there? - all by SequSpur

    How much they love me?
    One crazy mofo – rayray
    Dude, what the fuck is your problem bitch? – MaNuMaNiA
    Fuck you Poland! - donkeyonamidget
    Poland is on crack its official - batman

  11. #11
    Get Refuel! FromWayDowntown's Avatar
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    The length of the break and the hype that will be generated over the course of the next week reminds me of the West Finals series in 2001.

    Top two seeds. Everyone waiting to see them play. Lingering assumption that there would be no better series in the playoffs. One team coming in off of two sweeps; the other coming in after facing little resistance.

    Here's to a better result. . . .

  12. #12
    Believe. crc21209's Avatar
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    Very good, detailed preview by timvp. This is going to be one hell of series that's for sure...
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    Believe.

  13. #13
    Believe. timtonymanu's Avatar
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    I'm excited yet nervous as hell about this series. We have to wait a FULL week for this series too. Can't wait.

    All good points, timvp.

  14. #14
    Leonard Cow Eye's Avatar
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    This will be a series for the ages.

  15. #15
    Homer 2centsworth's Avatar
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    The length of the break and the hype that will be generated over the course of the next week reminds me of the West Finals series in 2001.

    Top two seeds. Everyone waiting to see them play. Lingering assumption that there would be no better series in the playoffs. One team coming in off of two sweeps; the other coming in after facing little resistance.

    Here's to a better result. . . .
    Here's to our pg staying on his feet and our shooters not shriveling

  16. #16
    Hedo Layup Drill ShoogarBear's Avatar
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    The length of the break and the hype that will be generated over the course of the next week reminds me of the West Finals series in 2001.

    Top two seeds. Everyone waiting to see them play. Lingering assumption that there would be no better series in the playoffs. One team coming in off of two sweeps; the other coming in after facing little resistance.

    Here's to a better result. . . .

  17. #17
    Get Refuel! FromWayDowntown's Avatar
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    I'll be here all week. . . .

  18. #18
    Almost Had It... -21-'s Avatar
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    Good write-up, timvp . Defensively, I think stopping them from running and forcing them to a half court offense should be the priority. This is a young, athletic, and skilled squad that is very dangerous on the fastbreak. The Thunder are also dangerous in the half court with Durant, Westbrook, and Harden but they tend to take a lot of jumpshots. Defending jumpers is much easier than stopping fastbreak layups and dunks.

  19. #19
    So Very Close timvp's Avatar
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    Um, you seem to have forgotten one matchup.

    That's only available in the Insider version.

    The length of the break and the hype that will be generated over the course of the next week reminds me of the West Finals series in 2001.

    Top two seeds. Everyone waiting to see them play. Lingering assumption that there would be no better series in the playoffs. One team coming in off of two sweeps; the other coming in after facing little resistance.

    Here's to a better result. . . .
    Yeah, I was thinking back to the best WCFs in Spurs history to compare this series to and the two that stick out are Lakers 2001 and Suns 2005. Those two were really hyped and people were split on who was going to win. It's interesting that the those series lasted a total a nine games ... and probably would have both been sweeps if not for Duncan's free throw shooting in Game 4.

    Rockets 1995 and Mavs 2003 turned out to be memorable series but the Spurs were heavy favorites heading into both so it's not too comparable.

  20. #20
    Sneakerhead. FlashZo's Avatar
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    Believe.
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  21. #21
    I want some NASTY! SpurPadre's Avatar
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    Other than Harden, another thing that worries me is that the Spurs don't force too many turnovers. We finished 24th in the league at forcing turnovers and that area hasn't really gotten better in the playoffs so it doesn't look like we can really exploit the Thunder's penchant for turning the ball over.

  22. #22
    Spur-taaaa TDMVPDPOY's Avatar
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    this thunder team is the exact carbon copy of the 05 sonics thug frontline team...

  23. #23
    ReTardis L.I.T's Avatar
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    I see this going the distance. But, quite honestly I am having some difficulty getting a read on this series.

    It's probably because I'm just not sure how much of OKC taking out LA in 5 was because of things OKC did or if LA finally decided to wrap up their season long implosion.

  24. #24
    Believe. Durant 35's Avatar
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    Thunder in 6 but spurs in 6 could be just as likely

    I honestly don't see anybody else being able to beat either of these teams
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  25. #25
    I want some NASTY! SpurPadre's Avatar
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    I see this going the distance. But, quite honestly I am having some difficulty getting a read on this series.

    It's probably because I'm just not sure how much of OKC taking out LA in 5 was because of things OKC did or if LA finally decided to wrap up their season long implosion.
    I still look back at that bad read on Gasol's part in Game 4 against them. He was trying to do what our team usually does, and look to find an open teammate for what could be a better option. The Thunder have been great at forcing turnovers in the playoffs, too so hopefully the team doesn't get carelessly pass-happy like that.

  26. #26
    Get Refuel! FromWayDowntown's Avatar
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    This will be the 8th time the Spurs have encountered that bastar . . . er, I mean, Derek Fisher in a playoff series (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 with LAL, 2007 with Utah, 2012 with OKC). I'm pretty sure that breaks a tie between him and Steve Nash as the players who've most frequently played against the Spurs in the playoffs. The Spurs are 3-4 in series against Fisher.

    In 2001 Fisher, memorably, couldn't miss from the arc -- he went 15-20 from 3 over the 4 games in that series. It was the first point at which Fisher ripped out the hearts of Spurs fans, preceding .4 and the Barry non-call in 2008.

  27. #27
    Believe.
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    I cant believe a lot of these spurstalkers are predicting that spurs will win 4 or 5 games. This really is going to be one of the toughest series in our franchise history. Great write-up timvp

  28. #28
    I want some NASTY! SpurPadre's Avatar
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    I cant believe a lot of these spurstalkers are predicting that spurs will win 4 or 5 games. This really is going to be one of the toughest series in our franchise history. Great write-up timvp
    Hey, I'm a bay area Spurs fan, too! I've been a lifelong San Franciscan (and a Spurs fan since '90) but am stuck in Fairfield now. Oh well, it's still in the bay area. Good to know there are other Spurs fans out here.

  29. #29
    OH YOU LIKE IT!!! slick'81's Avatar
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    theres no other way to say it these teams are as evenly matched as they come i dont see this series not gooing the distance
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  30. #30
    Moderator? ElNono's Avatar
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    Finally, timvp.
    Some people need to start working on their articles for tomorrow, and get some sleep.
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