May 21, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in game five of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder defeated the Lakers 106-90. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Thunder Vs. Spurs: Western Conference Finals Preview, Schedule And More

The Western Conference's top two teams are meeting up in the conference final round for a chance to compete for an NBA title.

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6 Total Updates since May 22, 2012
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San Antonio Spurs Predicted To Beat Oklahoma City Thunder In Western Conference Finals

It’s clear that the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the two best teams in the Western Conference. It was true during a truncated regular season schedule when both teams flip-flopped the top position in the standings. It’s true now as they stand as the final two teams left after two rounds of play in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. But when considering the two teams against the other, there’s no doubt who most people believe is the best overall team.

There’s not a single person among the several NBA analysts at Sheridan Hoops who believes the Thunder will win this series against the Spurs. Perhaps it’s a sign that the veteran team is favored in the playoffs. Perhaps it’s because the Spurs ultimately earned the No. 1 seed. Either way, eight out of eight sportswriters have the Spurs winning, including one who thinks they will sweep the Thunder and go to the NBA Finals.

John Hollinger of ESPN believes the same, predicting the Spurs to win in five games:

That’s why I keep saying nobody is beating this San Antonio team; it’s a tribute to the Thunder’s talent that they’ll be able to make this series somewhat competitive. But it will also show the young Thunder how much further they have to go to match the franchise they’ve worked so hard to emulate. San Antonio will finally lose a game, but I doubt it will lose more than once.

The Thunder are young and upstart, but they can also put this as a chip on their shoulder if they want — knowing that very few people on the national scene expect them to defeat the highly favored Spurs.

Read more about the Thunder at Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Spurs, check out Pounding The Rock.

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Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle Praises Growth in Oklahoma City Thunder

While it’s clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder are a much better team with each passing year, the Dallas Mavericks have seen the development up close. One year, they’re good enough to beat them on their way to winning the title. The next, they’re done in four games. Head coach Rick Carlisle recently spoke about the team that beat his Mavericks squad and praised them for their growth as a team and individually.

“No question that they got better,” Carlisle said when comparing the last two years of the Thunder’s roster. “When they went through what they did last year where they won two rounds and got in a tough series with us and basically were right there in every game, you take quantum leaps in terms of your emotional growth, understanding what it takes to advance to the highest levels.”

Carlisle likes the growth in certain players in particular, noting just how good Russell Westbrook has gotten and the “major quantum leap” that Serge Ibaka has taken.

“Their players individually have gotten better,” Carlisle went to say. “Westbrook is a better player this year. Durant’s a little stronger and a little bit better. Ibaka has taken a major quantum leap and (Kendrick) Perkins, last year he wasn’t the same player. He was coming off of a surgery the previous summer and there’s a huge difference in his body this year. He’s 20 to 25 pounds lighter, back playing above the rim again and was doing some good things offensively. He really brought toughness to their team. They’re in a great position.”

The biggest test of the post-season awaits the Thunder in five days when they start their series against the San Antonio Spurs. It will be interesting to see then just how much they’ve grown.

Read more about the Thunder at Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Spurs, check out Pounding The Rock.

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