Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spurs vs Thunder--Gvie Spurs Slight Edge

Welcome to the NBA Finals--whoops, that is the NBA's Western Conference Finals. Actually this is like a battle between the league's best, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, since the two teams in the Eastern Finals--Miami and Boston--are inferior to the West's best. The West winner will, most likely, win the NBA title.

Picking a winner between the Spurs and the Thunder--the series opens tonight in San Antonio--is tricky. Both steamrolled through two opponents in the first two rounds, the Thunder losing only once, to the Lakers, while the Spurs, swept all eight games from Utah and Dallas. In fact, the Spurs are sporting an incredible 18-game winning streak, stretching back to the regular season. Their last loss was April 11, to the Lakers.

Handicapping this series is tough because neither has a real edge.The Spurs big three--Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker--and older than the Thunder's top trio--Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden--but, in these well-spaced games, that's not a real factor. Besides, the Spurs, with a much better bench, can substitute without losing much strength. Road records aren't a factor either, since both play well away from home--particularly in the current playoffs.

Looking for an edge in their season series? In three games, Oklahoma City won one, on Jan 8, while the Spurs took the next two, on Feb 4 and March 16. In each, the victor won by about 10 points. So season-series results don't tell much. Neither does the turnover record. The Spurs protect the ball admirably but the Thunder, during the season, were the worst in the league, with nearly 17 a game. In the playoffs, though, the Thunder has shined, leading the league with about 10 a game.

Seasoned bettors, though, will probably side with the Spurs. They love San Antonio. The smart ones have been picking the Spurs on their 18-game streak and have been piling up cash. On that streak, the team has beaten the spread 15 times, winning by an average of 14 points.

If pressed, I'd take the Spurs in the series, mainly because of an experience edge--an often meaningless factor. In how many games? No idea.

In tonight's game, with the Spurs a five-point favorite, I'll take the Spurs.