The Thunder And Spurs Are The Best Semifinal Of This Year’s Playoffs

You can cry about missed calls, end of game fiascos, final sequences that should have been blown dead before ever taking place and the shame of Shakespeare in Love winning the Best Picture Oscar over Saving Ryan’s Privates back in ’98 all you want.

All that matters in the end is the final score.

So if you’re Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder right now, the bottom line is that their Western Conference semifinal series with the outstanding San Antonio Spurs is knotted at one game apiece after Game 2’s 98-97 win on the road.

And if you’re one of those folks still red in the face about the officiating, what you should be concerned with is the overall 48.1% field goal percentage of the Thunder, and that OKC outrebounded the Spurs 48-37.

This series will provide an outstanding look at two of the best young, dynamic duos in the game going head to head. OKC’s KD and Russ taking on the Spurs stars of the present and future, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. It’s an intriguing story line, but the team with the better and deeper supporting cast will ultimately move on to play the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

The speculation and debate about could’ve, would’ve, should’ve is simply a waste of time at this point. What isn’t is marveling at Aldridge’s play over these first two games.  The country is now beginning to appreciate the brilliance he’s been exhibiting on a nightly basis since his second year as a pro.

For the past eight seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Dallas native has been one of the league’s best big men, albeit one who’s still mysterious to the casual fan because he has not yet been anointed by the national media. That will change after these playoffs, though.

Aldridge followed up his sensational 38-point Game 1 performance in San Antonio’s 124-92 thrashing of the Thunder with 41 points last night. But the Adams family’s young big man Steven seemed to channel his uncle Lurch in the paint, telling Aldridge and 157-year-old Tim Duncan, “You Rang?”, every time he snatched one of his 17 rebounds away from them. 

KD was his usual superb self, scoring 28 points, snagging seven rebounds and handing out four assists. Westbrook was his usual animal self, scoring 29, along with 10 assists and seven boards. They get all the highlights, but look underneath the surface to understand how significant the contributions of players like Serge Ibaka, Adams, Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter are. 

While Aldridge and Leonard, who’ll need to score more than the 14 he put up last night and play like the guy who notched 25 points with five rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes of Game 1, are the new faces of this continuing, mind-boggling franchise excellence of the Spurs, I’m continuing to marvel at the depth of their roster.

Watching head coach Gregg Popovich’s substitutions, play-calling and psychological maneuverings, along with how he contorts and blends the contributions of the aged Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Andre Miller and Tony Parker with the intriguing skill sets of guys like Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, David West, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Kevin Martin from game to game is a hoops junkie’s dream.

This is the best of the conference semifinal series that remains on the books right now, and as much as everyone seems to have already awarded the Golden State Warriors the 2016 NBA championship, I would not be surprised if OKC or the Spurs had something to say about that in the conference finals.

So, in the meantime, let’s watch with a keen eye, and take our eyes away from the boring storylines that we’ll be force fed about the headliners and pay attention to the nuance.

Let’s peep Billy Donovan on the OKC sideline and see if he can make his bones in this series. Let’s see if Steven Adams can continue to play like New Zealand’s incarnation of Dennis Rodman. Let’s see what unheralded players, whether Kanter or Waiters for the Thunder, or Anderson or Mills for the Spurs can etch their names into franchise lore.

Complain about the officiating? Why in the heck would you want to do that?

Excrement happens. How bout we simply appreciate all of the greatness in between.

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