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SA vs. OKC: Red River Shootout Hoops

 

SA Riverwalk

The pristine beauty of San Antonio's Riverwalk at night.

First things first: I think the San Antonio Riverwalk is much better than Oklahoma City’s.

OKC Bricktown

Oklahoma City's Bricktown Canal. Not a Riverwalk of SA's stature.

In fact, OKC’s is actually called the “Bricktown” for good reason. Or just Bricktown. It’s cleaner.
Lots of bricks. With a canal you can walk by. Therefore, it’s called it a Riverwalk.

Spurs Coyote

The Spurs Coyote: "The Best in the Business" Courtesy: Harry How/Getty Images

OKC Rumble

Rumble the Bison: Still trying to figure it out. Courtesy: Layne Murdock/Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that the Spurs Coyote can run mascot Olympic-sized rings around the OKC Thunder mascot. How does a Bison named “Rumble” get NBA level status anyway?

I also know that neither of these things matter when it comes to breaking down the epic battle that looms in the Western Conference finals between the Spurs and the Thunder.

So here’s a quick spin through what we think, what we know, and what we feel about the X’s, the O’s, and all the important letters in between. Most of them, anyway.

I know both SA and OKC are unbeaten at home during the playoffs.  I also know both teams can win on the other’s team floor.  Get loud, San Antonio.

Durant jam

Kevin Durant appears at times to score with eight arms and legs. Hence the nickname: The Durantula. Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

really know Kevin Durant is the most dangerous player in all the NBA.  A 3-time scoring champ, the Durantula can finish at the rim like Lebron, drain jumpers from the third row like Ray Allen, and close out games like Kobe.  With a trio of playoff clutch game winning shots in 9 playoff games this season, no one is better at the buzzer. I also know that the Spurs have defended Durant better than anybody in the league.  KD’s average vs. SA, 22.6 points per game, is his lowest against any team this year.

Durant

Kevin Durant is good. Really, really good. Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Too bad I feel that average is about to go up during this series. Way up. Durant needs to average about 30 for the Thunder to take down the Spurs. Look for KD to shoot early, often, and a lot more after that.

I think once or five timesSpurs rookie Kawhi Leonard is going to wish he was defending Bryant rather than Durant, after the 6’10” God of Thunder shoots over him once or ten times.

I know both teams’ first guys off the bench will be bigger than many starters.  James Harden, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and Manu Ginobili, a former Top Bench Gun title holder, will think they are looking in the mirror.

James Harden

OKC super sub James Harden is a better player than he is a beard grower. That alone is scary. Courtesy: D. Clarke Evans/Getty Imag

Gregg Popovich says the two are like twins.  ESPN’s Jalen Rose called them Nicolas Cage and John Travolta.  You know, since Rose was “surprised everyone doesn’t think of ‘Face Off’ when Manu and Harden are on the floor.” Both lefties, both big, both fearless and relentless to the basket.

I think in a scrunched up 66-game season, it’s hard to take too much from the SA/OKC season series, won 2-1 by the Spurs. Except for this: Manu missed all three games.  Which means I know Ginobili will impact the game in a positive way for the Spurs. SA has swept up a perfect playoff storm without that signature standout Ginobili game.  Look for “Manu Moments” to alter the outcome of games, if not the series.

Manu Ginobili

The Spurs went 2-1 vs. OKC this year WITHOUT Manu Ginobili. That's good news for SA. Courtesy: D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

We all know that the Point/Counterpoint battle will be center stage. Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook are the fuel that fires their team’s offensive engines. TP9’s playoff numbers so far: 19.1 points per game 7.1 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game.  RWZero’s averages spike higher: 24.1 points per game, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.9 steals.

Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker both made the All-NBA 2nd Team.  Courtesy: Layne Murdock/Getty Images

Still, I know since Westbrook also leads Parker in turnovers per game, he giveth back points to SA.  That alone gives the Point Guard edge to the Spurs.

I think Tim Duncan still has some more water jugs filled from the Fountain of Youthful Legs to chug-a-lug.  Except for Manu being 100% healthy, Duncan’s energetic play, most notably in the first half of games when the Spurs have at times started rusty, is the biggest difference in this year’s Spurs vs. last year’s in the postseason.

Duncan vs. Perkins

Kendrick Perkins will bang Tim Duncan more than the Clippers or Jazz did. It won't matter, though. Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I know Kendrick Perkins will be more physically punishing than any other post player Timmy faced that the Jazz or Clippers threw at him in hopes something would work. I still feel that won’t cut it to stop Duncan’s drive for ring #5.

OKC Big 3

The Thunder Big 3: Scoring points in bunches in an arena near you. Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I feel the Thunder’s “Big 3” of Durant, Westbrook and Harden are more explosive than the Spurs’ “Three Amigos”. It would not be out of the question for all three to be sizzling one night, and combine for 80-90 points.

Spurs Three Amigos

The Spurs Three Amigos: Been there, done that. A lot. Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If Duncan, Parker and Ginobili go for 60 points together, that’s considered blowing up in unison. Still, I think the many years of Tim, Tony and Manu playing together, especially on three NBA championship winning seasons, is a bigger factor that gives SA’s triumvirate the nod in the “Most Valuable Trio” category.

I think the Spurs are going to need Danny Green to stay hot, stay confident, and keep scoring his playoff average of 10.4 points per game.  I feel Gary Neal is going to have to be ready to pick up his offensive attack if there’s a Spurs scoring slowdown.

Bonner

"The Red Rocket" Matt Bonner needs to be red hot from the 3-point line.

I know Matt Bonner is going to have to make the kind of 3-point shots he has trouble at times draining: the ones that come in a close game. I also think the time has come for Stephen Jackson to go straight into “2003 Streak Shooter” mode after staying quiet in the first two playoff rounds.

Jackson

The time has come for Stephen Jackson to go off like he did for the Spurs in 2003.

I know OKC’s Serge Ibaka will have several of those “WOW!” highlight-worthy blocks.
I-Blocka’s 3.7 blocks per game average is imposing.

Ibaka

At times it seems Serge Ibaka swats away more shots than Texans do to mosquitoes in summer. Courtesy: D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

But rack those up with Blake Griffin and his SportsCenter ready alley-oop slams.
One or two plays, no matter how awesome to watch, will not determine the winner here.

Tiago Splitter

If nothing else, Tiago Splitter needs to outplay former Spurs center Nazr Mohammed. Courtesy: sue Odrocki/AP

Speaking of bigs, I think Tiago Splitter is going to have continue his wild-mustang-running-free ways to combat the OKC bigs.  I also think that Dejuan Blair is going to need to be ready for more minutes in this series.

Dejuan Blair

For some reason, Dejuan Blair likes playing vs. OKC better than eating at KFC. Courtesy: D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

Blair went off for 28 points and 22 rebounds vs. the Thunder in 2010, then this year he racked up a 22 point, 11 board game. What I don’t know is if Pop will go back to Blair despite whatever the mojo Whataburger’s favorite Spur player has going for him vs. OKC.

Boris Diaw

Boris DIaw has been a bigger blessing than anyone in Spurs Nation could have anticipated. Courtesy: Layne Murdock/Getty Images

We all know why Blair is getting more bench sores than minutes lately. Boris Diaw has been everything the Spurs could have hoped for when they signed him. And then he’s been m0re. Then the French teammate of Parker has been everything else they didn’t know Diaw could do.  I think Diaw is going to have be able to move outside and be a threat from long range to pull Ibaka out of the paint. I definitely know I-Blocka can’t be blocking shots when he’s guarding someone 22 feet away from the basket. Only 3-point tries.

Diaw and Parker

Boris Diaw and Tony Parker are BFFFs: Best Friends From France.

I think you can’t quantify the value of knowing someone like a brother for most of your life. At least not on a stat sheet. But I know that there’s no denying that the long playing history of Parker and Diaw, two buddies who as teenagers in France dreamt about playing together for the NBA title one day, is a big reason the Spurs are rolling. Two players who instinctively know each other’s footsteps before they are taken.  Just as Argentine comrades Manu and Fabricio Oberto once brought championship glory to SA, “The French Connection III” is one movie that could soon be crowned the NBA’s equivalent of the Oscars.

Did someone mention movies? Greatest Spurs Horror flick villain of all-time? I know Derek Fisher is at least worthy of a nomination. Only this time the Spurs’ personal real-life Freddy Krueger comes back to the scene of the nightmare (AT&T Center) wearing royal blue instead of purple and gold.

Fisher

Derek Fisher and the Thunder are still playing. Kobe and the Lakers are not. Courtesy:Mark J. Terrill/ AP

I know that Fish will make some of those patented, rainbow arcing, dagger 3-point shots during this series. The kind that make you groan as soon as the ball leaves his hand.

Derek Fisher 0.4

Derek Fisher delivering the single most painful punch in the gut shot ever smacked on Spurs Nation.

Fortunately, I also know that they won’t come with 0.4 left on the clock.
Impossible can’t strike twice, right?

Scotty Brooks

OKC Head Coach Scotty Brooks is a rising star. Courtesy: D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

I think OKC coach Scotty Brooks is a rising star.  But I know Gregg Popovich is simply the best coach in the game today. Some would argue the best of all time. That debate is not for now.

Pop

Gregg Popovich has begrudgingly collected a pair of NBA Coach of the Year awards. Courtesy: Elsa/Getty Images

Pop vs. Brooks is not the mismatch Pop vs. Vinny was. But we all know who wins.

I think the Spurs and the Thunder are the two teams playing the best basketball of in the NBA’s Final Four.  I know the winner of this series will be the favorites in the NBA Finals. But I only feel whoever wins the West, wins the rings.

Durant vs. Kawhi

Kevin Durant might cause a nightmare or two for Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard. Courtesy: Richard Rowe/US Presswire

I think fans are about to treated to a phenomenal series.  I think one or two of these games are going to need more than 48 minutes.  I know a lot of nail-biting and screaming-at-the-TV will be going on all across Texas and Oklahoma. Similar to what we see every October.

Timmy

Tim Duncan looking extra-hyped up for the start of the Western Conference Finals. Sort of. Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

So the pick is: I think the Spurs defeat the Thunder in 6½ games. I know you all are saying “There are no half games.” I know, I was adding the possible OT minutes to the equation.

That being said, let’s round it up: SA over OKC in 7. Let the epic-ness begin.

 

About Maury Vasquez

Maury Vasquez is part of San Antonio's sports history and tradition. Vasquez worked with the KENS-5 Sports team under the legendary Dan Cook in the 90's before joining the top rated news team at KSAT-12. His career in broadcasting expands over 20 years in San Antonio and South Texas. Today, Maury works full time as the Public Information Officer for Somerset ISD giving a voice to the Bulldog Nation of students and staff. And his love for sports continues, by co-hosting "Longhorns Unplugged" on Ticket 760 AM along with co-hosting the "SASports.com HS Football Scoreboard Show". You can also find Vasquez Saturday mornings at the Mays Family "Field of Dreams" next to Wolff Stadium, where he serves as the announcer for the Miracle League baseball spring and fall seasons. Maury Vasquez is a native of Mercedes, TX from the Rio Grande Valley who has called SA home since 1992. He is also the proud father of two children, Valerie and Mauro IV. Maury writes for AlamoCityTimes.com about whatever moves him in the world of sports to the game of life, and just about anything in between.

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