We were all anticipating the Western Conference Finals matchup between the two Goliaths of the West would be one of the best playoff series in NBA history.
That was before Oklahoma City Thunder center Serge Ibaka went down for the rest of the playoffs.
With Ibaka down for the count, the series that we once made into an instant NBA classic is quickly turning into a glowing showcase of the San Antonio Spurs‘ dedication to offensive discipline and teamwork. Ibaka’s injury erased the one big advantage OKC had against the supposedly aging Spurs: an athletic big man.
Through the first two games of the series, the Thunder seem to be gasping for air amid the whirlwind of the Spurs’ relentlessly efficient offense. Kevin Durant, the league’s MVP, and Russell Westbrook look helpless to pick the Thunder off of the mat and carry them on their broad shoulders.
What we are now witnessing is just how important Ibaka was to the Thunder attack. In addition to protecting the rim, Serge had a nice outside game that drew big men out to the perimeter, which opened up the driving lanes for Westbrook’s thunderous drives and gave Durant daylight to launch his silky smooth bombs. With Serge no longer there, Westbrook now finds his driving lanes choked off and Durant no longer has the daylight to be efficient.
Before Ibaka went down, I predicted that this series would go the distance. After his injury, I predicted a Spurs’ victory in six games. Now it looks like the Thunder will be lucky to make this a series.
Say a prayer for the Thunder, because as it stands now, this team doesn’t have a chance.