Eighteen reasons the Thunder can beat the Spurs

COMMENTARY — Kevin Durant leads the list of reasons why the Thunder can knock off the Spurs, winners of 18 straight.
BY JENNI CARLSON Published: May 26, 2012
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When it comes to the Spurs, folks are fixated on one number these days.

Eighteen.

That's how many consecutive games the Spurs have won.

So, as the Thunder prepares to face them in the Western Conference Finals, it seems like the Spurs have everything going in their favor. Momentum. Confidence. Tenacity. Sure, the Thunder has played well during the playoffs but not nearly as well as the Spurs.

Is there reason to believe the Thunder can actually beat these guys?

I'd say there are plenty of reasons.

Eighteen to be exact.

1. Kevin Durant: Never a bad place to start, right? He scored 20-plus points in each of the Thunder's three regular-season games against the Spurs. Shot a combined 46.8 percent in those games, too.

And I suspect everyone can agree that KD is playing at a higher level now than he ever was in the regular season. The guy is averaging 28.0 points in the playoffs and shooting nearly 50 percent.

Oh, he also has three game-winners in the playoffs.

Three.

That is a career's worth of playoff game-winners for most players, but KD has done it in only nine games. Captain Clutch has more than earned his superhero cape this postseason.

2. The Peake: Winning a playoff game in Oklahoma City will be tough for any team.

3. Kendrick Perkins: Did you see how Perk negated Andrew Bynum in the last round? Any reason to think he won't be able to play pretty good defense on Tim Duncan, too?

4. Russell Westbrook's offense: He is playing like a veteran on the offensive end. During the playoffs, he is averaging 24.1 points a game while shooting 47.2 percent. Amazing numbers.

5. Russell Westbrook's defense: He is playing like a honey badger on the defensive end.

6. Turnovers: The Thunder committed more turnovers than any other team in the association during the regular season. In the playoffs? It has committed the fewest — 10.7 a game.

Sure, neither the Mavs nor the Lakers were pressure-defense teams, but there were plenty of games during the regular season when the Thunder would commit 10 or 12 unforced turnovers.

This is a big-time improvement.

7. Serge Ibaka's help-side defense: No one comes from out of nowhere to make a play at the rim better than Serge. He can get a running start, time his leap and block a shot that seemed destined for the bottom of the net.

That the Spurs love to drive to the basket plays right into his strength.

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