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Thunder Over Spurs, Heat Look to Return to Finals

The Thunder evened their series with the Spurs at two games apiece with a resounding win at home. The Heat will look to wrap up the Eastern Conference Finals tonight, and the USMNT won their first World Cup prep game.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This is beginning to look suspiciously like 2012 in the Western Conference Finals. A brilliant looking Spurs team takes a 2-0 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder, only to see the Thunder roar back. In 2012, they won four straight after falling behind 2-0 to earn a trip to the Finals.  This year, they have evened the series at two behind a monster game from Russell Westbrook, who scored 40 and added 10 assists, and a ferocious defensive performance.

The Spurs got off to a quick 8-0 start tonight, but soon the Thunder started using their length and athleticism on defense to force turnovers and contested shots. The were able to get out on the break (21-0 in fast break points for the game) and play the game at the pace they wanted. The dominated the 2nd quarter and took a 15 point lead into half time. They extended that out past 20 at several points in the third quarter, and the Spurs never really challenged in the 2nd half.

After getting hammered by the Spurs efficiency, ball movement, and shooting in the first two games, the Thunder have made the Spurs look old and slow in the two games in Oklahoma City.  They have pressured the Spurs into mistakes and limited Tony Parker's effectiveness getting into the lane. There is no question that Serge Ibaka has made a huge difference at the defensive end guarding the paint and making the Spurs forays there, so successful early in the series, much less so recently.

Game five in Thursday night back in San Antonio.  Can they figure out how to get consistent looks against the Thunder?

Tonight's game

Heat at Pacers
7:30 Central

The Heat will look to close out the series tonight in Indiana. Since losing game one, they have looked in control of the series, and each game has seemed progressively easier for the Heat, as they have turned up the defense and the Pacers simply don't have the individual talent to score consistently enough against them.  LeBron James has been excellent throughout, and Chris Bosh got off the mat in game four with a big first half.

Chris Anderson, who missed game four with a thigh injury, is questionable for game five, as is Ray Allen, who has been big off the bench for the Heat, especially in game three when he made several big three pointers to blow open the game in the fourth quarter.

Indiana will be desperate to avoid elimination on their home floor, and no doubt it will be loud and energetic at "WhateverThey'reCallingItNow" Fieldhouse.

Elsewhere, the USMNT won their first World Cup prep game 2-0 over Azerbaijan in San Francisco's Candlestick Park last night.  Clint Dempsey was a late scratch with a groin injury, something to keep your eye on going forward.  The goals both came in the 2nd half and were scored by substitutes, as Mix Diskerud hammered home a rebound of a Michael Bradley shot that was saved off the line following a dead ball delivery by Brad Davis. Aron Johannson scored the 2nd goal with a header off a corner kick also delivered by Davis.

Azerbaijan was not much of a test, and disappointingly they packed it in with 10 and often 11 men behind the ball, which isn't the way things will be in Brazil. It took time for the U.S. to break them down, and overall it was not a fantastic performance by the U.S.  The wind, which was quite severe. might have played a role in their precision.

As we expected, Fabian Johnson got the start at RB, with Cameron, Besler, and Beasley the rest of the back four. Bedoya and Zusi started wide in a 4-4-2 with Altidore and Chirs Wondolowski (in for Dempsey) up top.  Wondo had a couple of good chances in the 1st half and was unlucky not to score as the Azerbaijan goal keeper made a couple of very good saves on him.

Today in history

585: Solar eclipse as predicted by Thales of Miletus. 
1754: Troops led by George Washington fight French in battle of Jumonville Glen
1774: First Continental Congress convenes in Virginia
1830: Congress authorizes removal of Native Americans to the Western prairie
1892: Sierra Club formed by John Muir
1937: Golden Gate Bridge opens to vehicles
1937: Neville Chamberlain becomes British Prime Minister
1961: Amnesty International founded
1964: PLO formed in Jerusalem
1972: Break in at the Democratic National HQ at the Watergate

Today's musical birthdays. I realized today that I have been posting musical birthdays for a year now, as today is the birthday of Wendy O. Williams, the leader of the great punk band the Plasmatics, and I posted that exactly a year ago in what I think was the first musical birthday.  Of course I haven't done one every day, but now it's going to get complicated if I want to avoid repeats.  I would do Williams again, since the Plasmatics were awesome...but no.

Instead we'll go with the great Gladys Knight, born in 1944.

Wednesday. Yes. Wednesday.