The Spurs finally know the identity of their opponent in the second round of the NBA’s Western Conference Semifinals: The Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-1 series winners over the Dallas Mavericks after a 118-104 Game 5 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.
Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday at the AT&T Center, start time to be determined by the results of the Eastern Conference first-round series between the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics that is tied, 2-2. If that series goes to seven games, Game 1 of Spurs-Thunder will tip off at 8:30 p.m. If Atlanta-Boston ends in six games, Spurs-Thunder Game 1 will begin at 7:30.
Thankfully, the Spurs-Thunder series will begin with the most important players for both teams fully recharged and healthy. Since completing their four-game sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday afternoon the Spurs have seen Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry suffer a sprained right knee and Los Angeles Clippers All-NBA point guard Chris Paul suffer a broken right hand.
An MRI exam on Monday morning revealed that Curry had survived a nasty fall in his team’s Game 5 win over Houston without tearing cartilage or ligaments in the knee. The NBA’s top scorer this season (30.2 points per game) will be out of action for at least two weeks.
Paul’s fractured right hand – technically a fractured third metacarpal – appears to be an even more serious injury. Since the injury is to Paul’s shooting hand it seems unlikely he would be able to play in the second round if the Clippers win a series now deadlocked at 2-2.
Both the Spurs and Thunder made it through their first-round series with healthy rosters. The Spurs emerged from their 4-0 sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies in better shape than when they entered. LaMarcus Aldridge appears to have recovered well from the dislocated right pinky finger he suffered in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on April 7. The finger bothered him in the final games of the regular season but he averaged 14.5 points per game and made 51.1% of his shots in the four wins over Memphis.
Dates for all games of the Spurs-Thunder series have been set, as have start times for Games 2 through 4. Here is the full schedule, with known start times and telecast information:
Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday at AT&T Center, start time to be determined.
Game 2 will be played on Monday, May 2 at AT&T Center, tipoff at 8:30 p.m., telecast on TNT.
Game 3 on Friday, May 6, at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 8:30 p.m., telecast on ESPN).
Game 4 on Sunday, May 8, at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 7 p.m., telecast on TNT.
Should additional games be necessary Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10, at AT&T Center; Game 6 on Thursday, May 12 at Chesapeake Energy Arena; and Game 7 at AT&T Center on Sunday, May 15. Start times for the final three games are yet to be determined.
The Spurs have scheduled a practice session for Wednesday to begin preparing for a Thunder team they have met twice in their last four trips to the playoffs. Oklahoma City scored a 4-2 series win in the 2012 Western Conference Finals. The Spurs defeated the Thunder, 4-2, in the 2014 Western Conference Finals that preceded their 4-1 NBA finals triumph over the Miami Heat.
Oklahoma City is led by the All-NBA duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant is a four-time NBA scoring leader and the 2013-14 Most Valuable Player. Westbrook led the NBA in triple-doubles this season, with 18.
Thunder big man Enes Kanter left the Thunder’s Game 5 win over the Mavericks with what was called a right ankle sprain. Coach Billy Donovan said during his postgame press conference that Kanter could have returned to that game had he been needed, adding “I’m happy he’s healthy.”
Gregg Popovich always prefers playing teams at full strength.
“It’s always scary when somebody’s out because somebody else always steps up,” the Spurs coach said. “You always worry about your team thinking the job might be a little bit easier, just subconsciously. Everybody says the right things but subconsciously people don’t have the same focus when a team isn’t whole.”
Top image: Spurs fans celebrate in downtown San Antonio after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, June 12, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.