By Joe Munley
When I gave my predictions for the 1st round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs there were two series that I knew were locks. The Thunder were sure to beat the defending champs, and the Spurs were guaranteed to run the Jazz out of whatever arena they were playing in.
I have to admit that I thought the Mavericks would at least put up a fight against the Thunder. When I wrote, “This year’s Mavericks seem to be playing with little to no heart… And what heart they have left, Durant & Co. are about to tear out. The Thunder are on a mission”, I had no idea just how little heart the Mavs had left. Instead of winning two games at home like the defending champs should, the Mavs rolled over and simply conceded their title.
The reason I am so high on the Thunder – outside of the Westbrook & Durant Dynamic – is the reason they finished off the sweep of Dallas in Game Four: James Harden. When your team is so deep that a guy as talented as The Beard is coming off your bench, you’re going places. There is no team in the league outside of Miami that can match the Thunder in depth, talent, and tempo.
Like the Thunder, the Spurs also swept their first round series. Hopefully those games against the Jazz will put to rest the idea that the Spurs are too old. Led by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, the Spurs ran a very young team out of the building in all four games of their sweep. The tempo was great and their execution was nearly flawless in each of those games.
While they’re not as deep as the Thunder overall, the Spurs have a strong core of role players that actually relish contributing within their roles. Credit goes to Coach Popovich for this as he has this team believing in his system, but then when has he ever failed to get his team to buy into what he’s selling?
I know there are two other series still going on in the West, but the teams involved in them are really only playing for the right to lose in the second round. The Thunder and the Spurs are heads and shoulders above everyone else. They are clearly the best of the West.