Mar, 16, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) looks for a teammate to pass the ball to as Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) defends during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Thunder-Spurs Western Conference Finals Q&A with Air Alamo Editor Quixem Ramirez

Air Alamo editor Quixem Ramirez stops by to answer a few questions I had for him about the upcoming Western Conference Finals between the Thunder and Spurs. I did the same for him a few days ago too.

1. The Spurs have seemingly played perfect basketball in the playoffs sweeping two inferior teams. Could this in any way be something that hasn’t prepared them for a team like the Thunder?

I don’t think so. As a Spurs fan (and I am a tad biased), I don’t see why we should give too much credence to the notion that playoff teams need to have a couple of close games under their belts to be considered legitimate. What’s so wrong about winning eight consecutive playoff games by an average of 13.8 points? How can we possibly find faults in a basketball team that dominated their opponents in such a way that left them emaciated and unwilling to continue? Isn’t winning eight consecutive games by 13.8 points more impressive than consistently edging out close wins? I think so. Plus, if you are really set on taking that approach to demean the Spurs’ accomplishments then look no further than their 24-point comeback against the Clippers in Game 3. That, more than anything, shows the moxie of this San Antonio team.

2. The Spurs’ offense is what makes them great while their defense isn’t the best. Is their defense good enough to win a championship?

Yes. It’s a big misconception to devalue the Spurs’ defense on account of their offense. In fact, it’s been the defense that has attributed to their winning streak as much, if not more, than the offense. I could go all nerdy on you but I’ll limit my sample size to their last eight games (ie: the playoffs). The San Antonio defense allowed 88.8 points per game against the Jazz and Clippers. Both teams ranked in the top seven in offensive rating. The Thunder allowed 91.9 points against the Mavericks and Lakers. They ranked 10th and 22nd in offensive rating, respectively. Of course, this trend goes farther than the playoffs when their defense started picking up steam in late-March but you get the point. Defense will not be the reason why the Spurs will not win a championships (I’m betting they do).

3. Normally depth and role players go by the wayside somewhat when the playoffs start. This hasn’t been the case for the Spurs so far. Will their depth and role players stop being such a strength at any point in the playoffs?

Nope. Their role players aren’t merely “role players” in the sense that they are expected to fill one specified role. A lot of these guys can fill many holes while still being effective. Plus, there are just so many guys that Pop can throw out there without missing a beat. They will always make an impact although sometimes it’s pretty subtle.

4. People talk about how difficult it is for the Thunder to contain the Spurs’ offense. How will the Spurs contain Durant, Westbrook and Harden?

A lot of praying and avoiding ladders. It’s going to be incredibly difficult and Oklahoma City will score 100 points multiple times in this series just because their talent warrants that amount of scoring. I just can’t get over their reliance on isolations; they represent 13.1% of the offense. That’s a lot. For context, their 0.87 PPP on isolations is only marginally more efficient than the Charlotte Bobcats recorded on screens away from the ball (0.85) and Charlotte ranked 21st in that category. Until they redistribute their possessions, I can still cling to some hope.

5. Predict the outcome of the series.

Spurs in five. My blood pressure doesn’t like the sound of a seven-game series and my gut doesn’t feel think closing out a Game 6 in Oklahoma City is a realistic possibility. Five is a little low, admittedly, but it just feels right in this instance. I’m not overly confident in this prediction.

Tags: James Harden Kevin Durant Manu Ginobili NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan Tony Parker Western Conference Finals

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