(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder
The top two seeded teams in the Western Conference are each one series win away from advancing to the NBA Finals.
The number one seeded San Antonio Spurs will host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
San Antonio has not lost a game since April 11 (Lakers) and has won each of their playoff games by an average margin of nearly 14 points. To say the team is on a roll would be a vast understatement.
Oklahoma City is on a roll of their own. They come into the series having been victorious in eight of their last nine games.
During the regular season San Antonio beat Oklahoma City in two out of the three games they played.
Now the stage is set for what many consider to be the two best teams in the Western Conference to battle it out in what is projected to be a very competitive series.
What Oklahoma City Needs to do to Win
The Thunder does not have many holes in their lineup. Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins have had their roles defined throughout the season.
That is what makes OKC so successful. Every player on the floor knows what they are supposed to do. In order for them to beat San Antonio they will have to stay within their roles.
As good as Russell Westbrook is, it always feels like he is one bad mood away from derailing a game. When you watch him play it is evident he tries to increase his offensive presence regardless of whether or not Durant is having a great game. He needs to have the spotlight on him.
If Westbrook can maintain consistency and not allow the bright lights of the Western Conference Finals to seep into his ego, the Thunder will be just fine. However, if it gets to the point where Westbrook is only looking for his shot and he forgets the offense, OKC could get into trouble.
What San Antonio Needs to do to Win
The model of San Antonio's game has not changed very much over the last decade; continue to work for the smart shots.
During the regular season San Antonio was second in the entire NBA in points per game (103.7). The Spurs also led the association in field goal percentage (.478), and three-point percentage (.393).
San Antonio Head Coach Gregg Popovich has done a tremendous job of game planning for his team. In addition, the resurgence of Tim Duncan has solidified the consistency of this Spurs squad.
Duncan isn't the one shooting the three's, nor is he scoring 25 points per game. The intangibles Duncan brings to the court every night allows the rest of the team to be successful.
The Spurs starting lineup isn't as glamorous as OKC's, but the way the team comes together and plays smart basketball as a group is why many people (outside of Oklahoma) believe San Antonio is the best team in the Western Conference.
For San Antonio to win this series they will need to continue to limit their turnovers and get consistent play on the interior from Duncan. If Duncan can continue to average 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game, it would go a long way to seeing San Antonio win the series.
The other variable will be Manu Ginobili. He will need to come off the bench and match the contributions that fellow six man James Harden provides for the Thunder.
Series Schedule (all times Eastern)
Game 1: at SA, Sun. May 27, 8:30, TNT
Game 2: at SA, Tues. May 29, 9, TNT
Game 3: at OKC, Thurs. May 31, 9, TNT
Game 4: at OKC, Sat. June 2, 8:30, TNT
Game 5: at SA, Mon. June 4, 9, TNT, If Necessary
Game 6: at OKC, Wed. June 6, 9, TNT, If Necessary
Game 7: at SA, Fri. June 8, 9, TNT, If Necessary
Spurs in Seven
I've put my credibility on the line with my prediction, how about you? Who do you think wins this series?
Joe Chacon is a staff writer for Operation Sports and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. You can contact him on Twitter @JoeChacon.