The San Antonio Spurs were supposed to be old and tired last season, but they surprised a lot of people by tying for the most regular season wins of any team. However, their age showed in the playoffs when the younger, more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder outgunned them in the Western Conference Final.
The Thunder are still younger, faster and more athletic, while the Spurs have done little to change the foundation of their team. The general consensus is that the trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have hit their high point and are now rolling back.
One thing could throw a kink in the plans here as the Thunder just traded away James Harden, who was a key core member of the team. Could that level the playing field? We’ll get a good look at how the Spurs matchup with the Thunder on opening night.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio Spurs
NBA Betting Lines: Spurs -2.5
Oklahoma City trading James Harden to Houston may be the most scrutinized move of the season, as messing with the nucleus of a team that featured four Olympians in the gold-medal game and one that went to the NBA Finals should be. But Kevin Martin can score, even if he does nothing else, and the Thunder have an interesting pair of rookies in Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, who could be the steal of the draft. The Thunder still have the league’s second-best player in Kevin Durant and a top-10 player in Russell Westbrook, but Serge Ibaka has a large contract (that many think should have went to Harden) that he has to live up to.
The Spurs had won 20 in a row, so when they lost four straight to fall to the Thunder in the conference finals, it was easy to see what would happen. Once San Antonio finally lost, a letdown was going to come; it just came at the wrong time. Tony Parker has taken over the team from Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili has also stepped up even more, but Duncan can still roll back the clock every once in a while and he was excellent in the playoffs as always. Kawhi Leonard had a great rookie season, but coach Gregg Popovich is notoriously hard on young players and he’ll be counted on to keep improving. As long as the role players keep chipping in, San Antonio will still be a force in the West.
As for this particularly contest, look for the Spurs to edge out the Thunder. Oklahoma City was rocked to the core with the Harden trade and they might need some time to adjust. With revenge on the Spurs’ minds, they should be able to win and cover on Thursday night.
Pick: Spurs -2.5
New York Knicks @ Brooklyn Nets
NBA Betting Lines: Nets -4.5
If you were hoping to get your action in for this game, unfortunately Hurricane Sandy has forced a postponement. These two teams will now square off on Sunday instead of Thursday.