Thunder roll as they even up the Western Conference Finals
It’s incredible to watch how things have turned between the Thunder and Spurs. Just one week ago, I was pretty confident that San Antonio would cruise into the Finals and await whoever came out of the east. Now, it’s Miami how appears to be in cruise control and it’s the Spurs who appear to be knocked back, dumbfounded by what Oklahoma City has done the past two games. The Thunder turned last night’s game into a rout, holding their own at home to even up the series as it heads back to San Antonio. It’s surprising because the Spurs are the best in the league when it comes to adjustments. Did I expect Serg Ibaka’s return to matter THIS much to the Thunder’s success? Not at all. Ibaka is a great player and the best “third banana” in the league but he’s turned this series on it’s head in a matter of 72 hours. OKC’s athleticism sticks out like a sore thumb, a needle in the back of the Spurs that they simply can’t reach. Just look at the fast break points (21 to 0) advantage that the Thunder had last night. OKC turns on the jets and San Antonio can’t keep up, their starting line up much too aged for this young man’s style of game. Where does the physical intensity start and end? Russell Westbrook of course! Westbrook’s historic night (40 pts, 5 reb, 10 ast, 5 stl) led the way for the Thunder last night, dominating from start to finish and imposing his will. More than just their improved defense with Ibaka in the middle, the Thunder are forcing the Spurs to play their style of basketball at both ends of the court. Can the Spurs turn it around? Shades of 2012 can’t help but be discussed. But this is a different team for both sides. I expect San Antonio to respond well now that they’re going to be play at home but it’s clear that the momentum is 100% on the Thunder’s side. OKC thrives on momentum but part of that is because their home crowd is raucous, something that won’t be available in tomorrow night’s game. If I had to bet, i’d say that the Spurs rebound and at the very least, make the game come down to the final minute. I mean, it’s the Spurs…right? I’m not confident about picking them in tomorrow’s game but when they’re under the radar, is when they play best. It’s a three game series and there’s no need to stress how important tomorrow night’s game is for both teams. Should be a good one. Oh yeah, quick shout out to Corey Joseph.
Unfortunately, the eastern conference finals haven’t provided us with as much drama as our friends out west. The eastern conference has fizzled and turned in Miami’s favor more and more as the series has gone on. Can Indiana force another game or will the Heat close things out quickly tonight? All signs point to a quick and effective victory by LeBron and co (8:30 ET on ESPN) in Indiana tonight. The Heat have taken all of the Pacers trash talking and turned it on them, but doing so on the court instead of off. The momentum is heavily on Miami’s side but the Pacers will be playing in front of their home crowd. They owe it to their fans to give it 100% and send this series back to Miami. Will that happen? Probably not. Indiana has shown time and time again that they can’t be trusted this postseason. Sure, they’ve thrived on being the underdog but weren’t they in that position last game? Maybe they’ll prove everyone wrong tonight but the smart money is on Miami.
I’ve always been a fan of Ahmad Rashard’s interviews. Should be another great season.