The San Antonio Spurs welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder to the River City tonight for Game 1 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals. The Spurs are Texas-strength H-O-T right now. Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich’s veteran squad is on an 18-game winning streak and has won its eight playoff games by a remarkable 14-point average. On their home court the Black & Silver are an ironclad 32-5.
On the opposite bench, the Thunder return to the WCF to take on another Lone Star State team after losing to the 2011 Champion Mavs in this round last year. OKC finished three games behind the Spurs for the top spot in the West after leading the conference for most of this compacted season.
Led by 3X NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant, All-Star PG Russell Westbrook and 2012 6th Man of the Year James Harden, the explosive Thunder swept Dallas in Round 1 and then dispatched the Lakers in 5 games in the second round.
These two sides represented the cream of the crop in the West all year long. Whereas the Eastern Conference had injuries, upstarts and legitimate speculation follow their top teams into the postseason, the Spurs and Thunder seemed statistically destined to do battle in this round led by their respective Big 3’s – the abovementioned 23-and-under Thunder group and the Spurs’ All-Star 30-somethings PG Tony Parker (30), all-time great Tim Duncan (36) and Manu Ginobili (34), though the crafty, clutch Ginobili missed 32 games this year with a broken hand including all three contests with the Thunder.
The Thunder and Spurs faced off three times in the regular season. On January 8th, the Thunder won in OKC, 108-96. On February 4th in SA, Parker had 42 points and 9 dimes to lead his team in a 107-96 victory. In the rubber match on March 16th in the Sooner State, Tim Duncan pulled down 19 boards as the Spurs gave OKC a rare home loss, 114-105.
With apologies to the Miami Heat, the Spurs and Thunder have the most balance, depth and mettle of any teams in the league. They also have superstars, focus and great coaching. Look for an exciting, possibly historic WCF over the week as these two uber-talented franchises do battle to represent the West in the 2012 NBA Finals. Game 1 tips off of at 8:30 PM ET on TNT.