NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs v Thunder

James Harden

There are several certainties when it comes to this powerhouse matchup in the West. These aren’t only the two most complete teams in the Western Conference, but in the entire league. There are stars all over the floor for both teams, and both squads are coming into this series firing on all cylinders. This matchup will be fascinating to watch, and if it doesn’t go at least six games, I’d be absolutely shocked.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (2) Oklahoma City Thunder

As far as predictions go, I’ve been thinking about this matchup ever since the Thunder had the Lakers down 3-1 in their series.Not even close. In my mind, one of two outcomes will happen. Either the series goes seven games and because the Spurs will be at home, and are the veteran team, they’ll have the advantage and win in seven. Or, the Thunder steal a game in San Antonio, defend their home court, and win the series in six at home before a daunting game seven can occur. 

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Perkins is Oklahoma City Thunder X-Factor

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What do you do when your superstar scorers, two of the best in the NBA, have absolutely no consistency and can’t hit water if they fell out of a boat?  Well, if the rest of the players on the team play tough defense and do all of the small things right, you can still pull out a victory. Kendrick Perkins and the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t seem to have a problem with that.

Perkins, Oklahoma City’s enforcer in the middle, has made an enormous impact since joining the team in February of 2011.

The Thunder were a young and talented team in search of a physical presence down low before pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic to Boston for the Texas native and since then, nobody has pushed them around.

“Defensively, he’s one of the best in basketball,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said about his starting center. “He competes and trust me when I say this, he does so much more than what the stat sheet says. It’s great to see him have a double-digit rebounding or scoring game, but he means much more than just stats to us.”

In the Thunder’s 95-91 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Monday night, the team shot under 40 percent from the field, but thanks in large part to Perkins’ performance, they were able to edge out the win. Perkins finished the game with seven points and 14 rebounds, five on the offensive end, and he helped set the tone from the tip. While Oklahoma City’s scorers were clanking iron, Perkins kept them in the game with stellar cleanup work and great defense off the pick and roll.

Brooks’ comments after Monday night’s game are definitely accurate. If you want to see the impact that Perkins brings to a team, don’t look at his stat-line. He only averages 4.3 points per game and 6.3 rebounds, but what he does on the defensive end more than makes up for his lack of offense.

“I keep saying he’s the best defensive big man in the game,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “Even if he struggles on the offensive end one night, he comes out and does what he has to do defensively. He’s definitely huge for us.”

Perkins not only brings a defensive mind-set mixed with a dose of physicality, he also brings world champion leadership. He has been to the top of the mountain with the Boston Celtics and from the day he became part of the Thunder organization, he’s preached defense and playing hard at all times.

“I want us to play a whole 48 minutes on defense,” Perkins said. “It only takes one guy to mess up a whole possession. It could be me or anybody else, but as a team we need to play good defense for four quarters. We play great in the last three minutes, but good teams find a way to put it together for an entire game.”

It is still too early to determine who is going to be Oklahoma City’s x-factor down the stretch and into the playoffs, but one thing is certain for the Thunder, success on the defensive end starts with their tough-minded center.