While Oklahoma City owns bragging rights from those head-to-head
meetings, San Antonio owns the rings, having won four NBA titles in
the glorious career of forward Tim Duncan and fallen just shy in
last year's seven-game NBA Finals to the Miami Heat.
The ball-sharing flow of the top-seeded Spurs will once again be
measured against the Thunder's one-two knockout punch of league MVP
Durant and dynamic guard Russell Westbrook when the teams launch
their series on Monday in San Antonio.
Durant, who won his fourth NBA scoring title this season with a
career-high 32-point average, and the speedy, high-leaping Westbrook
averaged 21.8 points to give opponents fits.
Oklahoma City are hungry for victory, eager for another chance at
the NBA title after falling in five games to the Heat in the 2012
The Spurs, meanwhile, deploy a deep bench to keep their core
veterans such as Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili fresh and to
keep pressure on the opposition with their motion and ball movement.
San Antonio posted a 62-20 record, three games better in the
standings than Oklahoma City, who lost Westbrook for almost half the
season after knee injuries.
An impressive six Spurs averaged double figures this season.
Highly respected coach Gregg Popovich juggles a lineup with a
distinctly international flavor that, besides Parker of France and
Argentina's Ginobili, includes Mario Belinelli of Italy, Frenchman
Boris Diaw, Australian guard Patty Mills and Brazilian Tiago
Injuries could sway the balance.
Parker, critical to the Spurs' attack with his daring drives to the
hoop and soft jumper from mid-range, left Wednesday's second-round
clincher over Portland early in the second quarter due to a strained
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Last year a strained hamstring limited him in San Antonio's
agonizingly close bid for the NBA title against Miami.
All-Star guard Parker was optimistic in a text message he sent to
the San Antonio Express-News after taking an MRI.
"It's OK; not too bad," said Parker, who turns 32 on Saturday. "Not
as bad as the NBA Finals (last June). NBA Finals was a Grade 2. This
one is Grade 1. So should be fine for Monday."
Parker averaged 23.5 points in the first four games of the Western
Conference semi-finals against the Blazers before hurting himself in
The Thunder also have a concern as power forward Serge Ibaka of
Congo was forced to leave Thursday's series-clinching win over the
Los Angeles Clippers due to a calf injury.
Heading into Game Six against the Clippers, Ibaka was averaging 12.4
points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks a game.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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