Bill Land, 60, has been the San Antonio Spurs' TV voice for nine years. Land, who lived in Tulsa from 1981-98, still hosts the Tulsa-based “EOOC Sportscene” show on Cox Communications. A San Antonio resident, he discussed the Western Conference Finals in a phone interview.
Are you surprised the Thunder are in position to clinch the series Wednesday night?
I'm not surprised. I thought the series would go six or seven games and the Spurs would win. I am a little surprised at people's reactions here. In general, the Spurs were playing so well with the 20-game win streak that people got a little false sense of security when they won the first two games of the series. They thought, “Well, they swept the Jazz, swept the Clippers and this will be the same.” Oklahoma City is an entirely different animal. They're a great team — not just a good team — and they certainly have proved that.
If you turn a play here or there, with the exception of Game 3, all those games could have been turned around. I think that's why it still would be foolish for people to assume “Well, the Thunder won a game in San Antonio, I guess it's over because they don't lose at home.” They (the Thunder) are talented. Their ability to make shots has just been outstanding. If there has been anything that surprised me, it's that the Spurs' bench, which has been a huge strength, hasn't been nearly as deep or productive as I thought it would be.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley says the Spurs may have gotten too old to stay with the younger Thunder. Do you agree?
Not really. I think that the advantage the Thunder has in youth and athleticism is somewhat countered by the Spurs' experience. Maybe the longer the series goes, the tougher it becomes for the Spurs. Rather than knock San Antonio, people aren't giving Oklahoma City enough credit. Durant has said, “We don't want to wait to be a champion.” They've already waited because they went through that process where they scared the heck out of the Lakers a couple of years ago and last year they go to the Western Conference Finals. Winning a game in San Antonio proved they are very capable of taking the next step and winning a title.
Rather than talking about age, Tony Parker has played average or below average the last three games. He of their Big Three, because the ball's in his hand the most of the time, is the one guy they can least afford to have an off night. Whether it's the deal of (Thabo) Sefolosha being the primary guy that has guarded him, or if he has tried too hard or been a little out of control, I don't think that has to do with age.
What in particular do the Spurs need to do to win Game 6?
They must limit their turnovers. They have survived a lot of things, but they don't survive when they have 21 turnovers like they did Monday night that caused 28 points, particularly the transition turnovers when you're giving up dunks on the other end. And that focuses on Parker and (Manu) Ginobili because they are the ballhandlers. They have to either make better decisions because Oklahoma City is a tremendous defensive team. The other thing is they are going to need someone else to step up other than their veteran players. Stephen Jackson has given them a lift off their bench; other than that. no one has done anything.