Tahlequah Daily Press


April 19, 2013

Too many obstacles for OKC to overcome in playoffs

Gregg Popovich has been at this for a long time. He knows what he’s doing.

The long-tenured coach didn’t just stumble into four NBA championships on accident. There’s a reason why San Antonio has been a playoff mainstay since he became the authoritative figure by the Alamo in 1996.

So before getting fired up about Oklahoma City landing the top overall seed in the Western Conference, here’s something to remember: Popovich probably wanted it that way.

Just look at the matchups.

The Spurs’ road to the conference finals navigates through the City of Angels before being rerouted through the Rocky Mountains or the Golden Gate Bridge. The Lakers — despite a sense of rejuvenation without Kobe Bryant — will pose a very limited threat to the Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs.

San Antonio in five — six at the most.

From there, San Antonio gets to face two of the softest teams in the Association. Sure, Denver and Golden State put up a lot of points and have dynamic playmakers (Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala in Denver; Steph Curry and David Lee in Oakland). But slow-and-steady, half-court basketball works to perfection in the playoffs.

The Spurs can do that in their sleep. Thus, San Antonio overcomes altitude sickness and dispatches of Denver in seven.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City — after breezing through Houston and hanging out with James Harden for a week or two — will get the greater of two evils. Either the Los Angeles Clippers or Memphis Grizzlies.

The Thunder will undoubtedly root on the Clip Show, after OKC dominated LA and swept the season series. A meeting with Memphis would be far less desirable for the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook Show.

The Grizzlies took two of three from OKC during the regular season, and a showdown in the playoffs would likely mirror the melee that took place in 2011. Only this time O.J. Mayo is in Dallas and Harden is in south Texas, so those cancel each other out.

Also, playing Memphis means more minutes for Kendrick Perkins, which is never a good thing for OKC. The so-called “defensive enforcer” in the middle makes barely enough plays on defense to even out his lane-clogging clumsiness on offense. Advantage, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies.

However, the Griz rarely have an answer for Durant and Westbrook (Tony Allen can’t do it all on his own), so the Thunder — with some guard help from Kevin Martin, Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha — should wiggle their way into the conference finals — for the third time in three years — in seven games.

Then, history will repeat itself all over again. OKC and San Antonio will play for the right to watch Miami hoist another Larry O’Brien trophy. Only this time, the Thunder will be the No. 1 seed with rights to homecourt advantage.

That’s it. Everything else will be as it was in 2012, minus Harden providing headaches for Spurs defenders. (Reference Game 5 last season, if you need a refresher).

And that could very well mean the difference in the Thunder returning to the finals or OKC wondering what could have been.

Sure, San Antonio would prefer to have four out of seven games at home — if the series were to go the distance. But that didn’t work out for the Spurs last year, so might as well mix it up this season.

Thus, the genius of Popovich. He’s no fool in the coaching box. He’s well aware of what’s ahead of him. With OKC and San Antonio vying for the coveted spot in the final month of the season, Popovich had to weigh his options: homecourt advantage or a healthy roster, more specifically, a healthy Manu Ginobili. He chose the latter.

And you can bet that Popovich is dying for a chance at redemption in the conference finals. Only this time there is no Harden to deal with, and Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter are all a year older and more seasoned.

Oh, and adding Tracy McGrady during the final week of the season didn’t hurt, either.

So, much like OKC tore San Antonio’s heart out in 2012, the Spurs will return the gesture this May.

And if the Thunder is fortunate enough to reach the NBA finals, LeBron James will be waiting.

Looks like it could be another title-less season in Oklahoma City.

Text Only
  • James_Ethan-(12)-vs.#2CC63C.jpg Back on the line

    RiverHawks’ Ethan James returns to the line healthy and ready for 2014

    RiverHawks offensive lineman Ethan James will enter the 2014 season healthy – something the team, and James, were not in 2013.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Sooners shifting several positions

    Experience comes from encountering the same things in the same ways over and over again. Oklahoma’s Geneo Grissom and Julian Wilson have that at defensive end and nickleback in bunches.
    However, both will be seeing new things when practice begins. Grissom is moving to outside linebacker. Wilson will be getting a look at cornerback as his senior season begins

    July 25, 2014

  • BobBowlsby.jpg Media Week: Change is coming

    Changes are coming to college athletics.
    That was the theme of the state of the conference speech by Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby on the first day of Big 12 Football Media Days.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Peterson.jpg Cowboy quandary: OSU defense trying to replace seven starters

    A year after the best defensive team in the Mike Gundy era, the questions now surround how those few returning starters and second-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer can maintain that high level of efficiency.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Really one true champion?

    I decided to spare the colleagues in front of me – and myself from making a scene – by holding back flipping my table at the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days in Dallas.
    I had become exhausted by the constant use and misrepresentation by the Big 12 with their moniker of “One True Champion.” If they are going to live with the slogan, then they need to abide by that slogan.
    Perhaps its a simple case that they are keeping constant with the poor math of the 10-team Big 12 Conference.

    July 23, 2014

  • Hill expected to be used in multiple facets

    The picture became a little clearer recently of how Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year Tyreek Hill will be utilized in the Oklahoma State offense.
    And the picture is rather wide.

    July 23, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • shock pic.jpg Time to rest

    Shock beats San Antonio before entering All-Star break

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • McIlroy leads, Tiger Woods in contention after 1st day at British Open

    July 18, 2014

  • Woods says round disrupted by cameras

    British Open notebook

    July 18, 2014


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Press Sports Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites