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Oklahoma City Thunder: Series matches the youthful Thunder vs. the savvy Spurs

The Spurs are savvy and well-drilled and won’t wilt when things go wrong. They have a belief in a system that has stayed faithful for over 15 years, a millennial in the NBA. But the Thunder is younger and faster. And for two straight series, the Thunder’s young legs have worn down worthy foes.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 17, 2014

Ibaka’s loss will cut into that Thunder advantage. But it won’t eliminate it. Not by a longshot.

Perkins, who didn’t have young legs when he was young, knows how valuable that asset is. He knows what young legs can do to him, trying to anchor the middle of a defense.

“I think we just gotta make them move,” Gran Torino said. “We watched the Dallas(-Spurs) series. Any time Dallas made them move, ran their stuff with speed, they struggled. So I think that’s the key.”

We’ve seen that in the Thunder-Spur series this season. The Thunder swept four games from San Antone, and none of the four games had last-minute drama.

The Thunder won once without Westbrook; the Spurs couldn’t guard Jackson, who scored 27 points and missed but five shots. In another Spur game, Jackson had 23 points and just four missed shots. Westbrook went off for monster games twice against San Antonio.

Plus there’s Mr. MVP over there, a nightmare for any team to guard.

Another Thunder old pro, Nick Collison, said the young legs advantage doesn’t come automatically. The Thunder must make it possible for those young legs to operate.

“A big thing for us is putting guys in spots that they can take advantage of that,” Collison said. “And that’s by executing and spacing the floor. If those guys don’t have any room to operate, it’s easier for a lesser defender to be able to stay in front of them because the help is so much closer and things like that.

“It all goes back to our fundamentals, our execution and trying to play in transition to give those guys space to use their ability.”

So the Thunder has to in part play the Spurs’ game of knowing what you’re doing. The Spurs have to in part play the Thunder game of matching up in the open court.

But in truth, this series comes down to one thing. Do the Spurs have enough insurance to knock the Thunder from its parking space?

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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