If trend continues, OKC will win Game 6 with ease
DAVID FLORES: Odds don't favor Spurs in Game 6 against Thunder
All the signs point to the Oklahoma City Thunder beating the Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
But you know what they about a sure thing: It will bite you in the you-know-what sooner or later.
Then there's the law of averages. The Spurs, who lead the conference finals 3-2, are going to win in Oklahoma City again sooner or later. They haven't done that since March 16, 2012.
The Thunder have beaten the Silver and Black the last nine times the rivals have played at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
OKC will have to extend that streak to 10 games to force a Game 7 and keep alive its hopes to play the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.
A Spurs victory Saturday night would send them back to the Finals for a rematch with the team that edged them in a gut-wrenching seven-game series last season.
The Spurs are going to get that rematch, but they won't be able to start thinking about the Heat until late Monday night after they finally vanquish the Thunder in Game 7.
Yes, OKC is going to hold serve at home Saturday night to force Game 7. As well as the Spurs played in Game 5, I can't see a team with MVP Kevin Durant and All-Star Russell Westbrook losing such an important game at home.
But here's the rub: If the Thunder want to return to San Antonio, they better have a comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter. If the game is close in the final 6-7 minutes, I like the Spurs' chances.
While Game 7 would be in San Antonio, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich cautioned about making too much of the home-court advantage.
You can't count on that at all, Popovich said Friday before boarding the team's flight to OKC. In the end, a championship team wins on the road. That's the bottom line. So far that hasn't happened in this series, but I guess now it's got to happen one way or the other.
Given how the previous five games have gone, the Thunder should win comfortably Saturday night. If the trend continues, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard could be on the bench midway through the fourth quarter, watching OKC's backups mop up.
The Spurs took a 2-0 lead in the conference finals with blowout victories at the AT&T Center, but OKC tied things up with decisive wins in Games 3 and 4. The Thunder won by nine and 13 points, but the final margins don't indicate how badly they overpowered the Spurs.
But just when it looked as though OKC was ready to take command of the series, the Silver and Black rolled to a 117-89 home victory in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead.
Game 6 tips off at 7:30 Saturday night.
Popovich said Friday that the outcome of an NBA playoff game is determined more by mental and physical toughness than strategic moves, such as the one Popovich made when he started Matt Bonner instead of Tiago Splitter at center in Game 5.
Bonner, who is more of a shooting threat than Splitter, drew Thunder forward Serge Ibaka out to the perimeter, opening up the middle for the Spurs. Popovich made another change at the start of the second half, subbing Boris Diaw, a threat from the 3-point line, for Bonner.
Duncan says this is 'craziest' series he's played in
Popovich always has said that too much is made of the adjustments coaches make during a series.
It's about players, Popovich said. Players step up at this time, and it's also about the physicality, the energy, the determination. It seems that the home team each time looks to have the greater passion or physicality.
That's hard to measure because both teams want to win just as bad as the other. It's sport. That's what happens. But it's more, on that particular night, about who plays well and who is the aggressor, rather than some kind of 'o' or 'x.'
There have been two constants in this series: All five games so far have been blowouts and the home team has won each time.
Duncan said this is the craziest series he's ever played in. It could get crazier before it s over.
Duncan expressed optimism after Game 5 that the Spurs can end the series on the Thunder's home court.
We absolutely believe we can, he said. It's a tough place to play, and we've lost however many in a row there, and they're going to be fighting for their lives. All those factors altogether is not going to make it an easy game for us.
But we feel we play the right way. We take care of the ball. We do the things that we've been talking about all series long. There's no reason why we can't win it.
Considering how each team has responded at home after getting trounced, there's no reason to believe the Thunder won't continue the trend in Game 6. This is a proud team that's not going to go away quietly.
Yeah, of course it is going to be a very tough game over there, Ginobili said. So far, teams have been reacting well to losses. We started really well. We played great here, and they got upset or disappointed and they stepped up and they were way more aggressive than us in Oklahoma City.
They are very talented, stronger, faster, taller than us, so we are going to have to, again, play a very, very smart game.
Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Western Conference finals
(Spurs lead series 3-2)
Game 1: Spurs 122, Thunder 105,May 19, San Antonio
Game 2: Spurs 112, Thunder 77, May 21, San Antonio
Game 3: Thunder 106, Spurs 97, Sunday, OKC
Game 4: Thunder 105, Spurs 92, Tuesday, OKC
Game 5: Spurs 117, Thunder 89, Thursday, San Antonio
Game 6: Spurs at Thunder, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Game 7, if necessary: Thunder at Spurs, Monday, 8 p.m.
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