The Western Conference Finals get underway tonight in San Antonio:
Unfortunately, the Thunder will be without Serge Ibaka, who is not only the backbone of their defense but their third scorer, a player who can consistently make the open jump shots that are created by the defensive attention paid to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Ibaka makes a huge difference for them protecting the rim, and it's a real disappointment that the Thunder will not be at full strength.
The Spurs will have Tony Parker back after he sat out most of the last game of their 2nd round series against the Blazers with a strained hamstring.
Hopefully this will be an exciting and close series even without Ibaka, but it does feel like the Spurs, who would have been slight favorites, are now much bigger ones. Their efficient offense and talented depth should be even more effective without the Thunder defensive anchor on the floor.
It will require Herculean efforts from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to make up for Ibaka's absence, as well as someone to step up into that third scorer's role. Perhaps Reggie Jackson can have a big series, or Thabo Sefolosha can get hot from behind the arc, but it will take something unexpected.
At any rate, we start to see tonight. Enjoy the game. Chat here.