The San Antonio Spurs take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semi-Finals starting Saturday (8.30pm ET on TNT). Here we preview the clash, with betting picks’ predictions.
It came as a devastating blow not only to the Golden State Warriors, but to basketball fans everywhere when it was announced Steph Curry injured his ankle and would miss at least two weeks. It has robbed fans of the greatness that the Warriors are when Curry is in the line-up.
There were at least two teams in the conference who didn’t shed a tear and that’s because with Curry out, their path to the NBA Finals just got that much easier. Of course I’m talking about the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, who meet in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to decide which team will advance, still presumably to play the Warriors. But first they have to get past each other and that won’t be easy as by most estimates, this could be the best series of the 2015-16 playoffs.
The reason for this stems from the fact that both teams are star-studded and feature some of the top scorers and top defenders in the league. In what looks to be a match-up between Kawhi Leonard (pictured) against Kevin Durant, it is featuring the league’s Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) against the third highest scorer in Durant who is averaging 28.2 PPG on the season (26 in the playoffs). This is probably the most pivotal match-up and the one that will take center stage.
There is also the element of the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka against San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs’ Danny Green against OKC’s Russell Westbrook. Then there is the overall battle of the boards and battle of possession and one of the best threesomes in the league (Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka) against one of the strongest starting fives and overall deepest teams in the NBA.
There is a lot on the line for these two teams as both vie to return to the NBA Finals and even win a championship. As I mentioned, the road to the title gets easier if Golden State is out of the way but before the Warriors, these two get to face each other after going 2-2 head-to-head in the regular season.
Spurs vs Thunder Series Schedule
- Game One, April 30 @8:30 PM: Thunder @ Spurs
- Game Two, May 2 @9:30 PM: Thunder @ Spurs
- Game Three, May 6 @9:30 PM: Spurs @ Thunder
- Game Four, May 8 @8:00 PM: Spurs @ Thunder
- Game Five (if necessary), May 10 @ TBD: Thunder @ Spurs
- Game Six (if necessary), May 12 @ TBD: Spurs @ Thunder
- Game Seven (if necessary), May 15 @ TBD: Thunder @ Spurs
Game 1 Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Preview & Prediction
The series opens up in San Antonio, which right there is a point in the Spurs’ favor given as the hometown team lost just one game at the AT&T Center, against the Warriors at the end of the year, this entire season. At home, San Antonio has been dominant and having home field advantage in this series could be that final tipping factor in what otherwise profiles to be an extremely competitive contest.
Aside from the home cooking, there is the element of San Antonio being a little more well-rested, which always helps when you are one of the top three oldest teams in the league. The Spurs demolished the Memphis Grizzlies in a sweep, averaging a 22-point margin of victory in the four game series. This means the Spurs will have not played a game since April 24th, accounting for just over five full days of rest.
The Thunder meanwhile, which needed just five games, wrapped up their series against the Dallas Mavericks on April 25th, meaning the team has about four full rest days before taking on the Spurs. Now, is it likely that one extra day will make a difference? No, probably not. But like I said, the Spurs are an older team, the Thunder is not. Every day is sure to count.
The match-ups I mentioned above will be on showcase throughout the series but expect to really see them play into what happens in game one. That’s because Gregg Popovich is an excellent coach who, perhaps better than anyone at the position right now, knows how to make adjustments and utilize his players accordingly.
It’s no secret why San Antonio has the best and most consistent bench in the league. For starters, it averages among the top in bench minutes but beyond that, it’s Popovich, knowing when to pull the trigger and which guy to pull it on. It’s why guys like Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills, who have started a combined seven games between them, average at least six points playing in no more than 18 minutes. It’s why this postseason, two of the team’s top four scorers, Mills (10.5 PPG) and Kevin Martin (10 PPG) have both come off the bench. In fact, all but three bench players are actually averaging less points than Danny Green and Tim Duncan, who have yet to really get going.
Meanwhile in OKC, you’ve got a team that has been putting on an offensive clinic aside from Westbrook and Durant, who are both netting 26 points per game. Enes Kanter (15.2 PPG off the bench), Ibaka (12.6 PPG) and Dion Waiters (11 PPG off the bench) are all averaging double digit scoring. Even for the league’s best defensive team, which San Antonio is, stopping production at that level and from that many players is going to be difficult.
Then there is the battle of the boards which OKC leads 47.2 to San Antonio’s 42 per game. The Thunder lead, just barely, in turnovers committed per game as well with 13 to the Spurs’ 13.8 The Spurs lead in fouls per game with just 17 compared to 22.4 committed by the Thunder, and in blocks per game which is just over nine compared to just over four by OKC.
So, who wins, who loses? I fully expect this series to go the distance. I mean, how could it not? You’ve got talent up and down both line-ups, you’ve got teams playing at their best level right now, you’ve got scorers that can create opportunities and shots from just about anywhere and you’ve got role players who are playing their roles perfectly.
As for game one, for my preview’s betting picks’ prediction I’ll veer toward the Spurs and that home field advantage. Defense does win championships and if San Antonio keeps up that pace and can keep Durant and Westbrook limited in their opportunities, the Spurs should come out of this one on top.
I do think Spurs will win game 1 on the moneyline, but I expected the bookies’ spread to be around the 4.5pts mark. In fact Thunder are getting +6.5pts from the USA sportsbooks.
- So this preview’s advised game 1 betting pick is to wager on Oklahoma City Thunder +6.5pts on the spread @ -115 with BetOnline Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.