Except for the overall average age of the two teams, they seem to have striking similarities, which have led to their success this year. They are led by the NBA’s top two “low maintenance” superstars in Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan, who each have no problem with playing in a small market, and are each recognized as the hardest workers on their respective teams. Recently, Scott Brooks told me that the Oklahoma City shoot-arounds are harder than most teams regular practices, because Durant has that kind of work ethic and makes them that way. In his fourteen years in the league, Tim Duncan has always been known for his work ethic, which contributes to his longevity. It makes it very easy to be successful when your best players are also the hardest workers.
Both teams have extremely quick point guards in Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker, both of whom are playing arguably the best basketball of their careers. They penetrate the lane, can get to the bucket, and also have the mid-range jump shot that has been disappearing from all levels of basketball over the last twenty years (with the emphasis on 3-point shots). They also punish teams that choose to go behind the high pick & rolls, because they both also can shoot from 3-point range.
They both have “instant offense” left-handed combo guards in Manu Ginobili and James Harden, who come off the bench, and keep their offenses functioning at the same high level as the starters. There is no doubt that they would be starters on any other team in the league, but both seem to relish their roles.
There is also the old basketball rule that, if you want to know who the coach feels are the best five basketball players on his team, you do not look at the starters, but at the five players that he has in at the end of close games. Both these players are always in the game in those situations.
For defensive stoppers, you have Thabo Sefalosha of the Thunder and Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs, both of whom can make three point shots spotting up on penetration by the point guards. Both have physical big men who know how to set a good pick, play post defense and rebound: Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka of the Thunder and DeJuan Blair, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter of the Spurs.
Both teams have bench players who can come in and shoot the 3-point shot at a high percentage…..Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, Steven Jackson of the Spurs and Derrick Fisher, Daequan Cook of the Thunder. Both teams also have shot blockers who excel, Serge Ibaka of the Thunder, and Tim Duncan of the Spurs, and extremely successful defensive systems.
So the question remains, who will prevail….the young athletic talented Thunder or the Spurs with their combination of championship playoff experience and veteran leadership combined with some young talented role players. It should be close and exciting, with the edge probably going to the Spurs simply since they have home court advantage.
I can hardly wait!