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Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Spurs-Thunder clash good as it gets
By PETER VECSEY
NEW YORK — It doesn't get more captivating than the invincible Spurs vs. the near-impregnable Thunder.
Had the Bosh-less Heat not vividly reversed their 1-2 fade against the Pacers, the winner of this Sumo Series would be crowned champion and the Finals would be cheapened to a formality.
As things stand, I just hope the series spins into infinity and I live long enough to witness it all.
So many weighty questions are weighing us down, most which don't figure to be forthcoming in any shapely form until the Spurs and Thunder have scarred for four rounds, twice on each other's forbidden corners.
Has Scott Brooks spent enough time studying at mountain top monasteries not to be outwitted by meritorious monk Gregg Popovich?
Has he thought about shortening his coaching staff's rotation?
Will the Spurs' Twinkie filling competition in 19 successive successes have them unrehearsed for the deafening, disorienting clap of the (8-2 in playoffs) Thunder?
Or will precision, priors, precepts and poetry in motion supersede percussion and uncontrollable drive prey?
How will both teams respond to being sufficiently challenged?
Are they capable of cranking it up another plateau against a team much better than anything they've faced so far?
Will Kawhi Leonard live in foul trouble attempting to contain Kevin Durant or will the exceptionally composed rookie make it harder than usual for the compulsive scorer to get off?
Speed bump Danny Green has gained a reputation for slowing down point guards with his length and liquidity, but not even airport screeners have been able to decelerate Russell Westbrook's flight plan.
Can North Babylon's Green and Leonard go into the lab and throw something — anything — on the Bunsen burner?
Can Manu Ginobili get the better of clone James Harden or vice versa?
Their matchup alone is worth the price of admission. Especially since showing up means not being subjected to the convoluted, forced stances of television analysts Jeff Van Gundy and/or the non-stop unadulterated tedium of Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller.
Every dime-store dullard knows what great coaches do at this level; they concoct a formula to eradicate the opposition's best player or highest scorer.
Is there any conceivable plan Popovich can devise to neutralize one of the Thunder's hallowed threesome?
If so, is one enough to make a difference?
How many late calls will the refs give Tim Duncan, the league-leader in that category?
The Big Fundamental (with all due respect to Parker is the Spurs' true MVP; where would they be without either? You be the judge on who they would miss) most averaged 21 points and 9.3 points while shooting nearly 60 percent against the Clip-Ons.
The likes of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and, to a lesser extent, Nazr Mohammed need to do what the bigs of the Jazz and the Clippers could not . . . brake the first wave of Duncan and the second coming of Boris Diaw, who supplanted starter DeJuan Blair soon after removing Charlotte's morgue slab.
Much to the chagrin of practicing basketball purists, Diaw has contributed 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and intelligent passing in the playoffs while hitting 53 percent from the field.
Thanks to heady ball distribution by Duncan and Diaw, a large part of the Spurs' accomplishment down low is their obnoxious effectiveness from the Great Beyond.
San Antonio hit better than 42 percent of its 3-point tosses in the first two rounds, spreading the floor show like no other team.
What does Our Mr. Brooks possibly have in mind to shut down that phase of the Spurs' attack?
For all the props Popovich is getting throughout this second season as he goes for a fifth ring, here's one thing that's off the table . . . no Hack-a-Reggie Evans in this bunch, if needed, to get back into a game . . . as long as Perkins inbounds. Oklahoma City is shooting 84 percent from the stripe.
Any other questions?
Oh, yeah. At the end of the series, how many people within the San Antonio front office will be hired to command authority positions on other teams?
Will Popovich say anything remotely worth repeating during those greatly anticipated between-quarter nitwork coaching conversations?
Will Magic Johnson ever inadvertently say anything worth re-tweeting?
* * *
This just in: ESPN claims Shaquille O'Neal is interested in being Mitt Romney's wing man.
Tweet from Steve Kerr: "If I need a coach, I'm getting on the phone with Stan Van Gundy. He's one of the best in the league."
This from the former Suns GM, who hired Terry Porter after an exhaustive interview process and fired him several months later.
In view of how the Lakers lost, as well as Kyle Lowry's incompatibility remarks regarding Kevin McHale, the moment restricted free agent Goran Dragic re-ups — a must signing by the Rockets — we may very well see Pau Gasol ($19 million) again headed to Houston, only this time for Luis Scola ($9.4 million), Lowry ($5.75 million) and perhaps Patrick Patterson ($2.096 million).
Gasol's talents haven't deteriorated; they're just not utilized.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.