The San Antonio Spurs won 62 games this season, one short of the record for this storied franchise.
But none of those came against the Thunder. Oklahoma City swept them, becoming only the fourth team to blank the Spurs in a four-game season series since Gregg Popovich’s first full season in 1997-98.
In many ways, regular-season history becomes moot come playoff-time. Brooklyn swept Miami in four games this season. The Heat just dispatched the Nets easily in five games. Plus, the injury to Serge Ibaka clouds things.
But that said, there’s some minor details to be gleaned from the four meetings between these two heavyweights this season. Let’s take a quick flashback to each one:
Thunder 94, Spurs 88
Ibaka’s stat-line: 17 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks
Takeaways: It was an early season statement by the Thunder, ending an 11-game win streak by the Spurs despite a dreadful game from Russell Westbrook, who traditionally torches San Antonio. Westbrook shot 2-of-16 from the field, but the Spurs were burned by Reggie Jackson (which will become a theme). Jackson went for 23 points, including 14 in the fourth, getting to the rim at will against an overwhelmed Patty Mills. “Jackson kicked our (tail),” Popovich said postgame. And it was just the start of a trend.
Thunder 113, Spurs 100
Ibaka’s stat-line: 14 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks
Takeaways: Hours before tip-off, the Spurs announced that Kawhi Leonard would miss this game with dental surgery. Minutes before tip, Popovich lamented the loss, saying Leonard was the only guy on the team capable of slowing Kevin Durant. In this one, KD wasn’t fantastic, scoring 17 in an easy Thunder win, but the point remains. For the Spurs, Leonard playing and defending well is crucial in this series. He went toe-to-toe with LeBron in the Finals last season and has the capabilities to slow Durant. But if Durant torches him, OKC will be hard to beat.