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Five keys to Spurs-Thunder

OKC must tighten its defense as Spurs try to keep their ride going

Updated: May 27, 2012, 2:31 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | Basketball Prospectus

The old axiom is that defense wins championships. That's true to some extent, but you have to score, too, and we will see plenty of points in the Western Conference finals. In a series pitting the high-flying Oklahoma City Thunder against the ultra-efficient San Antonio Spurs, we have a matchup featuring a pair of offenses that take very different routes to get to the same place.

The Spurs and Thunder were the two most efficient offenses in the league this past season. In fact, when you adjust for the fact that this post-lockout campaign resulted in a league-wide efficiency that was down by 2.6 points per 100 possessions, these were two of the 50 most efficient offenses of the 3-point era. San Antonio clocked in at 22nd on that scale by putting up points at a rate of 6 percent better than the league average.

The overall efficiency of offenses in the playoffs has declined by another 2.5 points from the regular season, a typical trait of postseason basketball. However, the attacks of the Spurs and Thunder have gotten even better. Oklahoma City leads all teams in postseason points per possession, just ahead of the Spurs. If we convert those results to the same aforementioned scale, the Thunder have been 10.1 percent better than the typical playoff offense; the Spurs aren't far behind at 9.7 percent. If these teams had put up those numbers during the regular season, we'd be talking about the two most efficient attacks of the 3-point era.

So what happens when the two forces meet? Here are five things we've learned about San Antonio and Oklahoma City that should tell us something about this series:

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