Spurs/Heat/Thunder: Who Wants To Avoid Whom?

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    Updated: May 7, 2014
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    The second round of the NBA playoffs is now upon us meaning we are just that much closer to the NBA Finals.

    And although all the second round teams have a long way to go before they can start sizing potential match-ups, there are three teams in the second round who want to avoid each other at all cost in the future.

    The San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat all want to play each other, and avoid one another this post season, and they all have valid reasons why.


    The Spurs Are Rooting for the Clippers in Round 2…

    The San Antonio Spurs are as efficient a machine as Skynet from the Terminator movies. Gregg Popovich has such a great system he utilizes that there are certain games during the regular season where he can rest Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker, and the reserves will still give the opposition a run for their money.

    But the playoffs are an entirely different situation and those Hall of Fame players are necessary.

    The problem with the way the Spurs play is the way they are predicated on out smarting an opponent that has trouble figuring how to pick the locks and out smart the them.

    Unfortunately for the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t subscribe to any sort of system to beat teams.

    Thunder coach Scott Brooks simply hands the ball to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and lets those two run riot. Tony Parker is a great offensive point guard but there is no way he can contain Russell Westbrook.

    Khawi Leonard is an all-world perimeter defender but when Kevin Durant gets going he’s nearly unstoppable. 

    It also doesn’t help that the Thunder have superstars all 25 years old or younger, and just simply out athletic the Spurs up and down the floor.

    The Thunder have beaten the Spurs 10 times in their last 12 match-ups, including a 4-0 series sweep during the 2013-2014 regular season.

    And keep in mind the last time the Spurs and Thunder met in the playoffs was the 2012 Western Conference Final. The Thunder won that series 4-2 on their way to their first Finals appearance in the Durant/Westbrook era.

    What’s working in the Spurs favor is that the Thunder aren’t playing great basketball this post season. Although the Thunder did enough to get past the Memphis Grizzlies, they’ve seemed out of sorts for whatever reason. This could work to San Antonio’s advantage.

    Recent history proves this series would go OKC’s way, but history means nothing in the playoffs. What’s happened in the past might not have any bearing on what could happen if the Spurs meet the Thunder in the WCF.

    But I’d venture to think the Spurs want to avoid them at all cost if possible.


    The Thunder Do Not Want Any Part Of The Heatles 

    You’d figure when the top two players on Earth play against each other it would make for playoff fireworks, and it could.

    But will that happen, probably not. The problem in Heat vs. Thunder series would not be the match up between Kevin Durant and LeBron James.

    The problem would be what the Heat would do with the poor offensive play calling that Thunder coach Scott Brooks utilizes. The Miami Heat are absolute ball hawks and defensive monsters when they turn it up.

    The Thunder turn the ball over far too much and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James pounce on every loose ball and are always good for transition baskets.

    Russell Westbrook is averaging 5 turnovers a game this post-season and those turnovers would be turned into easy baskets for Miami. 

    The way to beat Miami is in the post where they have never defended well as a team.

    But no one is scared of Kendrick Perkins beating them, and although Serge Ibaka is a very good player, Chris Bosh would be able to do enough to neutralize him.

    And to stop Miami, the Thunder would have to insert Thabo Sefolosha in their starting 5 but he’s an offensive liability. The Thunder would essentially be playing 3 vs. 5 on the court and the 3 of OKC can’t beat the 5 of Miami.

    The Thunder could always put in Reggie Jackson in place of Thabo for offense, but then who guards Wade or Lebron? Reggie Jackson?

    Westbrook and KD will need all the help they could get against Bron and Wade defensively meaning they would have to give up a little offensively.

    The last time the Thunder met the Heat in the playoffs was in the 2012 NBA Finals and that series ended 4-1 with Miami just being a superior team.

    And this time around, the Thunder have no James Harden coming off the bench that can offer their second unit enough of a spark to beat the Heat. The Heat would welcome a series against the Thunder and I think the Thunder are fully aware of this.

    OKC wouldn’t back down, but against Miami’s Big 3, they wouldn’t stand a chance.


    The Spurs Want Another Crack At King James & Company


    Last year’s NBA Finals will always be remembered for the amazing shot Jesus Shuttles worth took at the end of Game 6 to send it into overtime.

    I can’t speak for every basketball fan across the world, but once Ray Allen hit that shot, there was no doubt in my mind the Spurs lost the chance to win their 5th title in the Tim Duncan/Gregg Popovich era.

    The Spurs were one corner 3 from having five rings, and LeBron was one corner 3 from being 1-3 in NBA Finals. 

    But there is a possibility that these two can meet again.

    Although LeBron is still the best in the game, and a healthy Wade is dangerous, the Spurs don’t fear them. Charles Barkley keeps saying old teams like the Spurs can’t win championships.

    But the Spurs came close last season, and are in top form again this season. Mentioning players are “Old” is a crutch analyst want to use when they can’t figure out why a team won’t win.

    The word I would rather substitute for old is experienced. The Spurs and Heat have both been here before on numerous occasions. There are no back-to-back games so rest isn’t an issue. So experience will matter a lot here. 

    A series between the Spurs and Heat always comes down to efficiency and X & O’s. The Spurs are better in both categories.

    Coach Spo v.s. The Mad Genius

    I think Erik Spoelstra is an amazing young coach and anyone who thinks his success is just down to the big three would be wrong.

    He’s excellent at play calling and making adjustments on the fly.

    He’s a product of Pat Riley for Goodness sake so that tells you everything we need to know about him. Unfortunately, the man he is up against is already a Jedi Master in the same vein and Spoelstra’s teacher. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the Association, and has been for years.

    The things he is able to do as a coach are nothing short of remarkable.

    The Spurs have 10 Internationals on their team. It’s like a United Nations conference going on in their locker room.

    Popovich always gets the right players, and puts them in the right places. It’s scary. This hilarious tweet from Netw3rk of Grantland says is all: 

    Where Popovich keeps finding his players not named Ginobli, Parker or Duncan is beyond us, but he does. And when these players sign with the Spurs Popovich flips a switch in their heads and they turn into amazing role players.

    Efficient Spurs

    Then there’s the efficiency portion by San Antonio. 

    The lack of transition baskets the Heat can get from Spurs mistakes will be a hindrance to Miami. Tony Parker rarely makes mistakes.

    And when he does, he makes up for it two-fold on the other end of the court. Parker also makes sure to get his legendary big man Tim Duncan going down in the post as well, an area Popovich knows the Heat have no answer for.

    Thiago Splitter is as great a distraction and nuisance as there can be in the NBA.

    He’s intelligent; he can get rebounds and put backs all at the expense of the Heat’s lack of depth at center and Power forward.

    If a team can beat the Heat inside, and not beat themselves with careless turnovers, then that team has a great chance of winning.

    The Spurs are that team. Miami won’t want this rematch, and the Spurs are hoping they get a chance to right last year’s late game wrongs. 

    Of course all this is predicated on each team at least advancing to their respective conference finals. All three teams are more than capable of reaching not only the conference Finals but also the NBA Finals.

    What happens from there depends solely on match-ups. This triangle of defeat is pretty interesting. Let’s see how all this plays out. 

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