Thunder (+135) vs. Spurs (-155)
Compared to the Eastern Conference Finals, the West’s series price is much closer, and by all means it should be a pretty epic series. Two seasons ago in the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs were up 2-0 against the Thunder, and it looked as if they were going to waltz to the NBA Finals over a very young and impressive Thunder team. However the Thunder won four straight games to came back from being down 0-2 to win the series.
Now fast forward to 2014. In two years, a lot has changed with both of these teams. Both have gotten two years older, which is much more advantageous for the Thunder than it is the Spurs. However while OKC has not gotten much better in the last two years outside of their two stars, the Spurs are a lot deeper and they have younger role players than two years prior.
Most notably is Kawhi Leonard, who was just a young rookie with the Spurs back in the 2012 postseason. Now he has quickly risen to become one of the Spurs best players, and possible even one of their best three players. While he won’t completely stop Kevin Durant by any means, I think he is going to make it very tough for Durant in this series, much like Tony Allen did in he first four or five games of round one. However Leonard is much bigger, stronger and younger than Allen, and the Spurs’ young stud has had some success against KD this season.
In four games against Leonard and the Spurs this season, Durant averaged 26 points per game on 45.8% from the floor, well below his season averages of 32 points per game and 50% shooting. In fact if you take away the third game they played one another where Durant went off for 36 points, in the other three games, Leonard limited Durant to only 23 points per game and 42.8% shooting. If this is the kind of defense we see here in the playoffs from Leonard, he and the Spurs are going to advance eventually.
The Sharp Pick
The Thunder shot the lights out of the ball in their Western Conference Finals win over the Spurs two seasons ago, and a big reason was the performance of the departed James Harden. Harden shot almost 50% from the floor, over 60% from three-point land, and averaged over 18 points per game in that series. So far this postseason, the only other Thunder players averaging double figures are Serge Ibaka at 12 per game and Reggie Jackson with 10.
With how well the Spurs’ defense has been playing, and with a now older and better Leonard to defend Durant, I see the Spurs winning this series. San Antonio will likely load up on Durant with Leonard, and make Russell Westbrook hurt them. If they can isolate the bulk of the scoring onto the shoulders of Westbrook, the Spurs are probably going to win this series. Westbrook alone cannot win this series with how many options the Spurs have on the other side. Any given night six or seven guys on the Spurs can hurt you, while there seems to be only two guys in OKC. I’ll take the depth and experience of the Spurs to win an epic battle.
My Pick: Spurs (-155) @ Bet365