Thunder end Spurs’ streak, sweep season series


So, the Spurs are human after all. The Thunder beat San Antonio 106-94 last night and ended the Spurs’ 19-game winning streak, with Gregg Popovich resting Manu Ginobli for the whole game and Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in the fourth quarter. Pop obviously didn’t see this game as more important than any other game, but it’s always noticeable when the top two teams in the conference play in April.

The Thunder showed how great they can be with a healthy and aggressive Russell Westbrook, who had 27 points, 6 assists and 4 steals. Kevin Durant had a subpar shooting night but still scored 28 points with 7 rebounds. This is good news for OKC, knowing that they can beat a great team even a rare “off” night by KD.

After watching this game, I believe Spurs-Thunder will be the Conference Finals matchup, barring any unforeseen injuries. The Spurs have blown through the top teams in the west lately, excluding OKC. The Thunder won the season series 4-0 this year, which doesn’t mean it’ll be a sweep if the two teams meet in May, but it does mean that San Antonio has trouble matching up with Kevin Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson, OKC’s supremely talented top four who combined for 80 points last night.

Remember that the Thunder beat the Spurs in the playoffs back in 2012, the last western team to do that in a best of seven series. The Spurs don’t have too much to worry about, however, as they should still be the one seed and hold home-court advantage for the entire playoffs. With respect to the Clippers, Rockets, Blazers and Warriors, I’d be shocked if it’s not Spurs-Thunder playing for the chance to go to the Finals.

It remains a logjam between Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix for the final two playoff spots. Dallas had a thrilling victory at the Clippers last night thanks to 26 points and 11 rebounds from Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs currently sit in seventh, half a game ahead of the Grizzlies and the Suns. Memphis is eighth at the moment due to a tiebreaker over Phoenix, but these three teams have flip-flopped positions literally every day the past week, so nothing is secure. As a basketball fan, I can’t stomach the fact that one of these high-quality teams will miss out on the playoffs when two teams 10 games under .500 in the east (the Knicks and Hawks) are “battling” for the eighth seed and the right to get thrashed by Miami or Indiana.

There are a number of crucial games in the upcoming week: Oklahoma City at Houston and Phoenix at Portland tonight; Memphis at San Antonio and Oklahoma City at Phoenix on Sunday; and San Antonio at Dallas on Thursday. OKC at Phoenix will be the most fun game to watch, and the Westbrook-Eric Bledsoe matchup will unofficially determine the winner of “guard who makes crazy good plays in transition offense.”  This week may be do or die for the Suns, who also play at New Orleans against rising superstar Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.