BDCi’s NBA Playoffs 5.30.14
(BDCi) — With just four teams now fighting for the NBA Finals, things are quite exciting. The Western and Eastern Conference Finals are in full swing as teams can close out their series over the weekend.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder SAS leads 3-2
This has been a very interesting series with two extremely talented teams winning in different ways. Every game of the series has been a blowout with San Antonio winning in Games 1 and 2 then the Thunder responded in Games 3 and 4. The Spurs are winning because they get contributions from a variety of people and have a very deep bench. Oklahoma City is centered around two superstars in Russell Westbrook and MVP Kevin Durant. The Thunder are younger and more athletic and have used that to their advantage in their wins by pushing the ball in transition when they get good stops on defense. However, in Game 4 Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had to work extremely hard on the defensive side to get the victory and then in the fourth quarter the backups for the Spurs starting chipping away at the lead so instead of getting rest, they were forced to play more minutes. Kevin Durant played 41 minutes and Westbrook 40 minutes. It showed in Game 5 when the Spurs were in control from the second quarter on and given that Reggie Jackson sprained his ankle in Game 4, he was not the third scorer that the Thunder needed. Scott Brooks decided to start Jackson but it really weakened his bench as they are very thin. On the other side, Greg Popovich chose to start Matt Bonner in place of Tiago Splitter in Game 5 and it was quite effective. By having Bonner start who is a three-point specialist, it forced Serge Ibaka to come away from the rim which is his specialty and guard on the three point line. That opened things up down low as Tim Duncan had a terrific Game 5. It was the first time the Spurs beat the Thunder with Ibaka in the lineup. This series has been about which team wants it more and comes out with more energy. This could easily go seven games as neither team has been able to win on the road. Game 6 is Saturday in Oklahoma City. It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma City responds with their backs against the wall and see if a road team can finally win a game.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (2) Miami Heat MIA leads 3-2
This is a series between teams that know each other quite well having played in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. It has been an up and down series with flashes for the Pacers of playing like a great team and times when they fall apart. For the Heat, they are a team that does not panic and knows what to do in key situations. Game 5 was very uncharacteristic for the Heat as LeBron James was in foul trouble the whole time and could not get things going offensively. The Pacers picked up their defensive intensity thanks to Lance Stephenson and were able to get good offensive possessions by moving the basketball instead of one on one action.
Also, Paul George came alive in the fourth quarter scoring 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter. He was exactly what the Pacers had been looking for and that’s how they were able to extend the series and avoid elimination for one more game.However, the Pacers were lucky because LeBron almost never gets into foul trouble and that makes playing defense easier when you can key in on Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh without LeBron. The Heat have been here before and know that they need to win Game 6 at home to avoid Game 7 on the road which is what Indiana wants. Indiana has been a hot and cold team ever since the end of the regular season. It is never clear which team will show up. The Heat have more talent and experience and will look to close out the series Friday in Miami. If not, Game 7 will be Sunday in Indiana. Indiana has not won a game on the road in this series and they would have to play exactly the way they played in Game 5 if they even want a chance to force a Game 7.
Brazilian Player Watch
Tiago Splitter-Center, San Antonio Spurs. 8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. In his last game, Splitter scored six points and grabbed two rebounds with an assist in 12 minutes. Splitter did not start Game 5 as Popovich was trying to limit the effectiveness of Serge Ibaka so he started Matt Bonner. It is no reflection on Splitter as Popovich was just going for the matchup. It worked well as Tim Duncan had a terrific game and Ibaka was stuck defending Bonner on the three-point line. In Game 4, he scored three points and grabbed one rebound in 19 minutes. Splitter has not played a ton of minutes in this series but then again during the regular season, no starter for the Spurs played more than 30 minutes. The Spurs have a deep bench and Greg Popovich is just trying to find matchups that work and that could be why Splitter’s minutes are so low. His main job is to play defense and rebound. If he happens to score, great but the Spurs get contributions from a lot of people. Splitter needs to understand that he may not get a lot of minutes but he needs to be effective with the ones he has. Especially, if Popovich decides to start Bonner again and Splitter has to come off the bench.