In sports, it’s often believed that talent is the main reason that a team wins or loses. In truth, it takes talent and taking advantage of possible matchups within a game. If you doubt that, ask the New England Patriots about the New York Giants. Can you say defensive line?
The 2012 Western conference finals to date have shown this to be true.
Through two games of the Western conference finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, the matchup clearly favors the Spurs. Overall, the Spurs have depth on their bench relative to the Thunder. The Spurs can bring Steven Jackson, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, and Tiago Splitter off the bench to provide the necessary punch over the course of a game. Plus, let’s not forget about that guy Manu Ginobili. Oklahoma City can only really bring James Harden, the current sixth man of the year award winner, off of the bench to make substantial difference.
As for the starters, the two individual matchups that are wreaking havoc on the Thunder are Tony Parker on Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard against Serge Ibaka. Parker’s experience and savvy are making an extremely talented Westbrook look silly. In Game 2, Parker had 34 points and eight assists while Westbrook had 27 and eight, respectively. According to those figures you would think Parker has a slight edge. The numbers in this case lie. Parker’s decision making ability is one of the reasons the Spurs are up in the series 2-0.
As far as Leonard, his ability to shoot the three has made Ibaka have to come outside of the paint which opens driving lanes for San Antonio. Ibaka is also bad at defending the pick and roll as well. Leonard had 18 points and 10 boards on Tuesday night.
The way each team plays also falls under the term matchups. Oklahoma City plays an up tempo transition game and a jump shooting half-court game. This style works most of the time, but if the Thunder aren’t hitting for four quarters they will lose. The Spurs can run, play pick and roll, and go to a conventional inside post game. San Antonio’s unselfish passing is like “art”. The Spurs game two performance was outstanding.
Oklahoma City may have better individual superstar athletes in Westbrook and Durant, but the better team is clearly San Antonio.
Sometimes it’s all about matchups.