2012 Western Conference Finals Preview

Nearly 30 years ago, Philadelphia center Moses Malone offered a playoff prediction for his team, claiming the 76ers would win “fo, fo fo,” meaning his team would sweep each series en route to a title.

His prediction almost came true.

After sweeping New York in the opening round and winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, a 100-94 victory in Game 4 for Milwaukee marked the only defeat Philadelphia suffered during the 1983 playoffs. 

Twenty nine years later, San Antonio is at the halfway point of post season perfection, dispatching both the Jazz and Clippers in four games.

In eight games, no team has been more dominant as the team has shifted from a defensive powerhouse, leading to four championships under Tim Duncan into a transcendent offensive attack led by point guard Tony Parker.

Tony Parker is averaging 19.1 points, 7.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game in the post season.

The Spurs lead all playoff teams in points per game (102.5), field goal percentage (49.1%), 3-point percentage (42.3%) assists (24.1) and point differential (+13.8).

In eight playoff games, San Antonio has scored less than 100 points just twice and has already won six contests by 10 or more points.

Parker has out played Devin Harris, a former All-Star and Chris Paul, the likely starter for the United States Olympic team this summer in London.

Even with Paul serving as the focal point of the Clippers attack, Parker outscored him in three of four games during the sweep.

Even though Parker has been the catalyst for San Antonio, part of the success of the Spurs has been the resurgence of Duncan. The 36-year-old power forward is averaging 17.6 points, nine rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.

His scoring average is nearly a five point increase from a season ago, as Memphis knocked out the Spurs in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs.

No team has ever gone undefeated in post season play, but with its offense clicking, San Antonio has an opportunity to become the first.

Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs

Season Series: San Antonio 2-1

Game 1: Sunday 8:30 p.m. ET on

Key for Oklahoma City

As the only active Western Conference player averaging over 25 points per game, Kevin Durant provides Oklahoma City with its biggest advantage in the series.

San Antonio has started Kawhi Leonard at small forward, a 6-foot-7 rookie that has guarded Gordon Hayward, a second-year player and Caron Butler, playing with a broken hand.

The scoring champion of each of the past three seasons, Durant averaged 22.7 points per game in three meetings with San Antonio this season.

For the Thunder to win, he will have to significantly increase his point production.

Key for San Antonio

The Spurs must set the pace for each game.

Even though the average age of Oklahoma City’s starting lineup is three years younger than San Antonio’s, the Spurs must find a way to play uptempo and gain as many possessions as possible.

During the regular season, the Thunder averaged 16.3 turnovers per game, the most in the NBA. In its last nine games, Oklahoma City has committed just 10.7 per game, the lowest of all 16 teams to qualify for the post season.

If San Antonio can dictate the flow of the game, it can force the Thunder into careless basketball, and advance to the Finals for the fifth time with Duncan.

Pivotal Match-up

Russell Westbrook vs. Tony Parker

In the first meeting of the regular season, Oklahoma City prevailed as Parker connected on just 1-of-8 attempts from the field and finished with four points, matching his lowest output of the season with at least 15 minutes played.

During the next meeting, coach Gregg Popovich challenged Parker to carry the offense. Popovich wanted his point guard to hoist up 30 attempts.

The result was a season-high 42 points as he made 16-of-29 attempts from the field while dishing out nine assists. The Spurs won 107-96, one of just five losses by more than 10 points for the Thunder all season.

Before the start of the Western Conference finals, Parker vowed to attack Westbrook in the series.

Westbrook has been playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 24.1 points per game while committing just 14 turnovers in nine games, by far the most careful he’s been with the ball during his four-seasons in the league.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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