Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs (-6.5, 201.5 o/u)
It was always going to be a good series between the Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1, 2-0 road) and the San Antonio Spurs (4-0, 2-0 home). But now, with all the injuries tearing up the other side of the Western Conference bracket, not only will this series look outstanding by comparison, the winner will have a great chance at going the distance.
Game 1 gets underway tonight at the AT&T Center, where the Thunder will try to hand the Spurs just their second home loss all season (8:30 PM Eastern).
San Antonio barely broke a sweat in the first round, dispatching the wounded Grizzlies in four straight and outscoring them 412-324 for the series. The Thunder had to work a little harder after bumbling away Game 2 to the Mavericks, but still come into this series feeling confident, routing the Mavs in four of five.
However, the 85-84 loss to Dallas highlighted an issue that has dogged this team for years: inefficient offense late in games.
If Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant aren’t creating offense on their own late in games, the Thunder don’t seem to get any. Their inability to create open looks for anyone else will definitely get exposed against a San Antonio D that is by far the best in the league.
The Thunder and Spurs split four games during the regular season with each team protecting home court. Oklahoma City cracked 100 points in each of their wins, while failing to hit that arbitrary mark in both of their losses. The Thunder will likely need to get over that hump to steal a win in San Antonio; for all the credit thise defense gets, the Spurs average 105 points per game on home court.
The matchups to watch will be on the wings, where Kawhi Leonard will look to make Durant wish he was anywhere but OKC. Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge should provide the Spurs with an exploitable outlet on the offensive end.
I expect a long, hard-fought series from these two, but San Antonio is one of the most dominant home teams of all-time. Getting this few points out of the gate is a gift. Take the Spurs.
Pick: San Antonio (-6.5).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (RO9A3690) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)