Kings Of The West … Spurs Or Thunder?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Identifying the differences between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder isn’t nearly as clear-cut as a quick scan of the Western Conference standings.

The Spurs lead the West and the entire NBA with a 39-11 record, and that includes their current 11-game win streak. The Thunder have the second best mark in the West and the league at 37-12.

But that still doesn’t give us any real insight into these two teams and what makes one superior to the other, if that is the case. They’ve split a pair of games this season, the Spurs won the first matchup 86-84 in the November 1 season opener for both teams in San Antonio. The Thunder took the second 107-93 on their home floor Dec. 17. And they have jockeyed for position at the top of the standings all season.

It’s a continuation of the battle these two teams waged last season for the supremacy in the Western Conference and there hasn’t been much separation between the two, save of course, for the Thunder’s triumph in the Western Conference finals last season. The script this season is following the same path as a year ago, with the Spurs holding the edge in the regular season standings but the Thunder — with their younger and more dynamic cast — holding the edge in a potential playoff series.

The Spurs have workhorses in All-Stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan with a wild card of Manu Ginobili (when healthy) and a seasoned and steady supporting cast led by Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and others. And they have arguably the NBA’s best coach in Gregg Popovich.

The Thunder counter with a pair of All-Stars and superstars of their own in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with a wild card of Serge Ibaka and a steady supporting cast led by Kevin Martin and Nick Collison and others. They too have an excellent coach Scott Brooks, whose experiences in recent seasons have helped shape his view of what it takes to push his team in ways that have helped the Thunder evolve from a lottery outfit to title contenders.

Again, there’s isn’t so much as a sliver of space difference between these two heavyweights on paper.

That said, both of these clubs understand the tenuous nature of having a perceived advantage and what that means in the postseason. The Spurs had home court advantage in the Western Conference finals (and a 2-0 series lead) and it couldn’t save them from the clutches of a Thunder team that was simply better at that time.

The Thunder took that same home court advantage into The Finals against the Miami Heat and couldn’t hold off LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co.

The Spurs and Thunder should have serious challenges on their hands long before they get to the Heat, or whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference come playoff time. The Los Angeles Clippers (when healthy), Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets and perhaps even the struggling Memphis Grizzlies will all have to be dealt with in the playoffs.

But the cream of the Western Conference crop seems to be separating themselves from the pack as we inch closer to the All-Star break. Yet there is very little empirical separation between the Spurs and Thunder.

There is plenty of regular season basketball to be played. So we’re not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves here. That said, if they face off again in the conference finals this season, it’s hard to see the Spurs overcoming the same things that cost them against the Thunder last season. Those young legs will be tough to overcome in a seven-game series.


  1. joyce says:

    I agree with whoever said that the Thunder beat the Spurs at their own game. Also putting Sefolosha on Parker hurt us. I also agree that Pop stopped trusting his bench. I do think that the spurs can beat the Thunder. But I am violently opposed to any trade. The Spurs strength is growing players in their system. I remember days when people wanted to trade Tony. What a huge mistake that would have been. If we traded Tiago now that he is finally living up to his potential that would be a crime. Tony is Tony and he is amazing. Same with Tim. The difference this year has been the further developement of Tiago, Kawai, and Danny. These three are the future of the Spurs and it would be a crime to trade any of them. The only people I would even consider trading are Boris Diaw or Manu. But I think trading Manu would be somewhat of a sacrilige even though he is a far cry from the Manu of 2007.

    • Marco29 says:

      Manu is already 35, I don’t know if SA would get valuable players in return. If they can, why not? What about trading Jax? He is not contributing so much but costs 10M$ for this season.

  2. Dr C.Goode says:

    Kings of the West? Well obviously thats Sacramento right? I mean they are the only team named Kings in the west.
    Seriously though OKC are clearly the kings of the west. The way they blew SA away in the West Finals last year should be considered their crowning. However if SA makes the Al Jefferson trade with Utah as they should, then it’s definitely game on again.

  3. Reev says:

    Been a Spurs fan all these years. I do believe that Popovich is the best coach there is because of his ability to lead a team of non-superstars (Except Tim and Tony. Sorry Manu, you’ve just been inconsistent the last couple of years). While they’ve always been in the Playoffs, what I don’t like about the “Spurs system” is that come Semis or the Western Finals, Popovich suddenly has a distrust for his younger players. He suddenly doesn’t play it by gut unlike the rest of the season.

    The Finals are all about gut. That’s why the Thunder won over them. And I hate to admit it but, unless Pop and Co. trust their bench come the Playoffs, Semis and Finals (we are going to make it yes)…the Thunder are going to be on top of the West again. This is why Phil Jackson is an even better coach. He’s the only coach I know who would even trust a hot-handed bench player to lead in the Finals.

  4. theholyspectator says:

    spurs too old…okc pullin out the west..rematch of last years nba finals…okc vs gonna be a good one

  5. Bstarr says:

    C’mon guys this is an easy one: Spurs will end 1st in the West and will lose the Conference Finals against OKC…..if they don’t meet Houston or Lakers in the first round. Utah, Portland and Memphis are no match for them in the playoffs. Denver can get wild but will not end on the 8th place.

  6. Mr Boy says:

    I think if the two teams were to meet this season in the playoffs, I would put my money on the Spurs in 6 or 7.
    Splitter, Kawahi and Green have improved considerably over this year. Plus the bench have also gotten better. Nando DeColo already reminds me of a young Ginobli, plus Baynes looks promising.
    The biggest factor would be the loss of Harden for the Thunder. He single handedly demolished the Spurs in the Playoffs. Without him, the Thunder bench is not as explosive as it would be.
    As a Spurs fan, I feel we would win it this year. It is an odd number year after all!

  7. Willy says:

    Fatigue was the biggest factor for the losses last season. It seemed that Coach Pop didn’t go to the bench as he was during the regular season, maybe he couldn’t I don’t know, but it was away from the style of regular season play that rack up all those wins. The Spurs defense has improved this year and maybe that can make the difference in the playoffs. Lakers get the 8 spot and beat OKC in the first round! Spurs cruise to the TITLE!

  8. Ace says:

    Isn’t that the purpose of the Playoffs, to decide which team is better? Why are we discussing this in February?

  9. RB3 says:

    Truthfully, I dont think the Thunder’s young legs were the reason for the Spurs’ lost in the Western Conference Finals. I think that the whole hack a Splitter deal was the real reason, If you look back at the first two games of the series, the Spurs just cruised in those wins without a single hack a Splitter. But in the next couple of games, you notice that when they started fouling Splitter intentionally, they were losing their rythym and the lead. I bet that if Splitter were to be shooting from the free-throw line then like he is now, OKC wouldn’t even dare hack him intentionally and I believe that the Spurs would’ve won in 6, 5, or maybe even in 4 games. Who else agree’s? GO SPURS GO!!

    • Mr Boy says:

      Didn’t the Thunder do their Hack a Splitter in Game 2?

    • Marco29 says:

      Sure, this tactics wouldn’t pay off as well as last year. On last year’s series, Pop got outedged which I am sure won’t happen twice. As far for winning in 4, I don’t think that, despite the first 2 rounds sweeps, anybody really believed that would happen. OKC is too good a team for that. If they meet again this year, it will probably go to 6 or maybe even 7 which would be a real thrill.

  10. Kyle RUiz says:

    Go OKC! #ThunderUp

  11. Laker Gang says:

    none of them are kings of the west!!


  12. Franz says:

    Until they are beaten in the playoffs, they are the better team. And this coming from a Spurs fan. Having said that, game 5 last year was the deciding game. If the Spurs win that, they would have won the series and this debate would not happen.

  13. spur forever says:

    the only defference between this two team is the age,nothing more but in the paper san antonio got everything to bet thunder.;go spurs

  14. chap_cat says:

    I’m a Spurs fan, but I have a ton of respect for the Thunder. If the Clippers don’t get Chris Paul back healthy, there is absolutely no doubt who the team to beat in the west is for the Spurs. Of course, all bets are off if injuries are sustained by the best players on either team. Personally, I think it is a toss-up, all else being equal. The biggest thing that hurt the Spurs last year in the playoffs was Splitter losing his confidence. He could not hit 50 percent from the line and it really got into his head. I don’t see that as a problem this year, and his emergence from the pack as one of the better big men in the league with vastly improved FT shooting and improved defensive skills could and should be the difference this year in a rematch

    • Marco29 says:

      It was Sepholosha’s defense on TP that cost the Spurs the series last year. I think Pop and Partker would find a way to adapt to this if they meet again in the palyoffs this year. I think, Green, Leonard and Splitter are much better than last year and can offer solutions if Parker is blocked. Bench qualily and defense are clearly on Spurs side but Thunders have the offense and the athteticsm. I hope everybody on both teams stay healthy and I am really looking forward to this series.
      West conference will be tough but Spurs and Thunder seem to have an edge now. Denver and Golden State will be tough challengers. Clippers need to have everybody (CP3, Griffin and Billups) back to be a real threat. Porbably Memphis blew up its chances with this roster shake-up. Who knows what damage Houston and Portland (or Lakers if they manage to qualify) will make during the first round.
      If Lakers manage to get #8 seed, it would be interesting to see how Spurs and Thunder will handle the battle for #1 seed. Cause they might get home court advantage (SAS lost 2 times at home so far and OKC 3 times) but will have to face LAL in a challeging first round.
      Comming weeks will be very exciting.
      GO Spurs GO

  15. Bryan says:

    Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are the future Spurs dynamic duo. Agree or Disagree.

  16. robd says:

    The thunder played a magnificent last four games against the spurs in the playoffs and they did it by playing the spurs game, move the ball work together find the open man. tough d and attack. Had they played that way against the heat, they would have won. They usually play with to much Westbrook and they can be beat. I look forward to what I hope is another finals series between the two and best team win. Go spurs

  17. FIRE MIKE (NO D) ANTONI says:

    Let’s go SPURS! 😀

  18. BeliSRB says:

    @ Dwade Yeah,especially to him…idiot.

  19. Aaron says:

    Don’t forget that Danny Green didn’t play against Miami either. Both teams are stunningly good,but I don’t believe the Thunder are as great as they were last year. The loss of James Harden should really hit them hard once they play high quality teams in the playoffs (ex. Spurs,Clippers,Warriors (if healthy), and Nuggets). It won’t be easy by any means for any team to be crowned as the Western Conference Champions, but due to depth and experience with young stars (such as Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard) maturing I would bet on the Spurs making the finals.

  20. adamy says:

    Parker and Duncan are playing much better than last year. Hardin was the one making the back-breaking plays down the stretch in the conference finals last year and he aint there this season.

    However, Durant and Westbrook are another year older and are (presumably) wiser and still much younger than the Spurs top duo.

    My, admittedly biased, opinion is the Spurs will down the Thunder in 6 and go on to win their 5th and final championship! It is an odd numbered year after all…

  21. Tetfal says:

    I think we all know what TD, TP , MG and SJ ability are when they healthy of course. it’s all about KL, DG, TS and GN to show in playoffs, because that gonna look our main rotation.

  22. Dwade says:

    Both Teams will kneel down to D’Wade and the Heat…. Back off men…

  23. jacobm says:

    in a series you have to favor the energy and youth of OKC, however in one game setting i would lean toward the defense and experience of San Antonio

  24. BigDawg says:

    One very big plus in the Thunder’s favor besides young legs… The Thunder knows they can beat the Spurs in a seven game series. Winning four straight against the Spurs in the Western Finals equals a Thunder repeat as WC Champions. Take it to the bank.

  25. Heat#6Nation says:

    Am completely in agreement with you on that (defdun), I still would choose the Spur over the Thunder anytime, AM SURE what happened last playoffs would never happen again, and am sure too Greg Popovich still bites himself in the flesh wondering how he could have given up that series 2-0 on top. About their Unit, they are really good at what they do, I wish Miami could play like that, honestly… would make me sleep better come Playoffs, but we both know that Playoff and regular season are to different things, so I would´nt make my decision depending on it, otherwise I agree with you. I would go out on a limb and say Spurs will be out there in the finals… I think Westbrook is much of a loose canon that can blow anytime, and that my friends gives the Spurs the edge all day.

    • OKCFan says:

      Your Miami Heat’s next victim this year, it’s all but a pattern – OKC loosing to Dallas in playoffs then destroying them the year after, Spurs had the 2-0 advantage but lost it. You’re lucky the team is young and was not able to handle the pressure of a team that has been in the Finals before. This year is surely Durant’s year, just wait and see.

  26. Kilroy says:

    As a long time spurs fan i have to say the spurs are the best.
    Gonna be a western finals rematch for sure, hopefully we win this time.

  27. defdun says:

    You’ve got to love the quality of these two teams, although so different in characteristic.
    I’d say that probably when facing each other the Thunder would win 4 out of 6 games on average (60%), as they did last season in the playoffs.

    However the Thunder are somewhat vulnerable, as once you lose Westbrook or Durant to injury or a bad day, the teams would probably break down and drop considerably quality-wise. Not so with the Spurs that could afford to lose any one player and would still win a lot of games. They nearly beat Miami after leading most of the game in Miami without TP, TD, Manu and Kawhi. That says it all in my view.

    So in terms of having a plan and being an effective unitthe Spurs are clearly the best TEAM.

    • defdun says:

      Correction: I meant 66% of course

      • sirsparhawk says:

        Actually I think any team losing their 2 best players become chump change. Look at the clippers, went from a number 1-2 seed too a 4-5 seed by losing their superstar pointguard, thats losing 1 person, imagine the damage spurs would face if duncan and parker were gone. Sure they almost beat miami, but they didnt, even tho they rarely missed shots.

      • sirsparhawk says:

        Any team losing their superstars would become mediocre, clippers are a prime example of that. Lost 1 player and went from a 1-2 seed to a 4-5 seed. Sometimes tho I wish westbrook would just stop shooting so much. Id gladly trade him for kyrie or curry.

      • Duke says:

        I agree.. the Spurs have been playing very consistent basketball for years.. this year is no exception. The wild card like you said is who can stay healthy. That is the difference between these two teams.

    • CELTIC THUNDER says:

      in a series without parker they would be just as potentially poor as the thunder without westbrok or durrant