Gregg Popovich would hope that his team's regular season history doesn't repeat himself in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. If the San Antonio Spurs' past is telling at all, then the Thunder might make quick work of them on their way to the NBA Finals.
But there's one big difference for the Thunder. Scott Brooks' team will be without forward Serge Ibaka, who is likely out for the series with a calf strain. The loss changes the big picture for Oklahoma City, which loses a player that frustrated Tim Duncan into 43.4 percent shooting over four games during the regular season. Ibaka averaged 14 points, 11.5 rebounds and four blocks in four Thunder wins against the Spurs.
Spurs vs. Thunder
Spurs vs. Thunder
Throughout the regular season, Oklahoma City proved it could defend San Antonio's offense that at times operates like a finely tuned symphony, holding the Spurs to a 99.1 points per 100 possessions. Furthermore, the Thunder second unit smothered the Spurs' role players and got efficient scoring from Reggie Jackson, helping Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook's cause.
Here's how the regular season series went and what it might tell us about the matchup.
Nov. 27: Thunder 94, Spurs 88
An 11-game Spurs winning streak came to an end as two healthy teams clashed in Oklahoma City. Durant poured in 24 points, Jackson added 23 off the bench — the duo scored the final 13 for OKC — and the Thunder survived a 2-for-16 shooting performance from Westbrook while holding San Antonio below 40 percent shooting. The Thunder also held Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard to a combined 12-for-34 shooting from the floor. Ibaka scored 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, production that will be sorely missed in the teams' playoff series.
Dec. 21: Thunder 113, Spurs 100
The Thunder won at San Antonio for the first time in seven games behind Westbrook's 31-point outing, and Durant struggled with just 17 points even though Leonard, his primary defender, was a late scratch. The bench statistics leaned heavily in Oklahoma City's favor with reserve power forward Nick Collison tallying a plus-20 plus-minus and Jackson, who scored 21 points, right behind him with a plus-19. San Antonio was led in this one by Parker, who got to the foul stripe 13 times but hit just 6-of-14 attempts from the floor.
Jan. 22: Thunder 111, Spurs 105
By knocking down 54 percent of their shots, this is the only game against Oklahoma City that San Antonio shot better than 44 percent. It helped that Parker dropped 37 points on 14-for-22 shooting himself. Problem for the Spurs is that this game could be an outlier, as Westbrook was sidelined with a knee injury. That didn't change the outcome of the game as Durant went for 36 points, and although Durant recorded 11 turnovers himself, the Thunder forced 17 Spurs miscues and scored at a 54-percent shooting clip. Jackson added 27 points and eight dimes in Westbrook's stead. This is a theme for Jackson at this point, who in four games against the Spurs averaged 21.3 points, 4.5 assists and shot 67.9 percent in 31.3 minutes per game.
April 3: Thunder 106, Spurs 94
Despite 21 points from Patty Mills, the San Antonio bench unit again struggled heavily from a plus-minus perspective, while Leonard and Tim Duncan led the starters with 17 apiece. San Antonio's streak of 19 wins in a row ended as Duncan continued his shooting struggles against the Thunder, closing out the season series hitting just 43 percent of his shots against Ibaka and Co. Similarly, Parker had another poor shooting game and in this one can't get to the foul stripe, scoring six total. Durant scored 28, Westbrook added 27 and Oklahoma City scored a whopping 30 points off 19 San Antonio turnovers.