Western Conference finals preview

674526.jpg

Western Conference finals preview

The Western Conference finals begin on Sunday night when theSan Antonio Spurs host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both teams have been off fora while. The Spurs have had six days off since last playing, and the Thunderhas had five days off.Some are saying that the winner of this series is the mostlikely NBA champion, and no doubt there are some interesting storylines in thisone. The Spurs have won 18 consecutive games going back to the regular season,and the Thunder looked impressive in series victories over Dallas and the L.A.Lakers.Why Spurs will win: They are the mostexperienced team remaining in the postseason, theyre healthy and theyrepeaking. Whats more, their three-man core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and ManuGinobili has more support than it has had in years.In addition, the Spurs would seem to have an advantage inthe coaching department. Gregg Popovich has won four titles as coach; ScottBrooks is making his second consecutive appearance in the conferencefinals.How Thunder could win: Its not hard atall to envision an Oklahoma City victory in this series. These teams are thatevenly matched. What the Thunder is going to need to do to beat San Antonio isshow they are capable of slowing the Spurs offense down.San Antonio has executed better than any other team in theplayoffs at the offensive end, but the Thunders quickness will have to bedealt with.The Spurs will also have to prove they can guard KevinDurant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.Insiders intangible: Duncan is playingextremely well, but the Thunders front line is big and physical. If KendrickPerkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed can wear Duncan down overthe course of the series, the Thunder will be in better position towin.Prediction: Spurs in 7.

Instant Replay: Warriors finish strong, grind past Grizzlies

Instant Replay: Warriors finish strong, grind past Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- There was plenty of tension and more than a few pulse-stopping moments, but the Warriors found a way to win their seventh consecutive game.

The Warriors’ 106-94 victory Sunday over the admirably recalcitrant Memphis Grizzlies was a work in persistence and overcome moments in which the worst of their work was on full display before a sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Klay Thompson scored 31 points to lead the offense. Stephen Curry had 21 points and a game-high 11 assists, Andre Iguodala had 20 and Matt Barnes finished with 10 as the Warriors evened the season series with the Grizzlies at 2-2.

The Warriors (59-14) fought off numerous Memphis rallies but turned up the defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Grizzlies to 13 points on 5-of-25 (20 percent) shooting over the final 12 minutes.

The Warriors offset 18 turnovers, giving the Grizzlies 16 point, by shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

Mike Conley scored 29 points to lead Memphis, which fell to 40-33.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

As good as the Splash Brothers were, and they were superb, it was Iguodala’s play at both ends that made a major difference.

Iguodala’s line: 20 points (7-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, 4-of-5 from the line), a team-high-tying seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot. He played 32 minutes and was plus-9 for the game.

TURNING POINT

After the Grizzlies pulled into an 81-81 tie with 25.2 left in the third quarter, the Warriors responded with a 15-5 run to go up 96-86 on a 3-pointer by Curry with 4:57 remaining.

Memphis got no closer than nine in the final minutes.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain and bone bruise) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

Grizzlies: C Marc Gasol (L foot strain) was listed as questionable and declared out prior to tipoff. F Chandler Parsons (L knee rehab) was listed as out. C Deyonta Davis and F Jarell Martin are on assignment with Iowa of the D-League.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors travel Monday to Houston, where on Tuesday night they face the Rockets at Toyota Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.

Kerr: Warriors could rest two key veterans during upcoming stretch

Kerr: Warriors could rest two key veterans during upcoming stretch

OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors on Sunday will begin a stretch in which they play three games in four nights and five in eight, coach Steve Kerr said there are no plans to rest anyone.

He did, however, leave open the possibility of sitting a couple veterans.

“The only guys who I would consider resting over the next week, barring injury, would be Shaun (Livingston) and Andre (Iguodala),” Kerr said Sunday afternoon, prior to tipoff against Memphis at Oracle Arena. “And that’s routine, because of the wear and tear, the age and the constant monitoring we’re doing with those guys.

“But the schedule is fine. I’m not planning on resting anybody in San Antonio.”

After facing the Grizzlies, the Warriors on Monday fly to Houston, where on Tuesday night they will play the Rockets. The following night, they face the Spurs in a game of particular significance.

Though the Warriors are assured of having the homecourt advantage should they make it to the NBA Finals, they have yet to reach that status in the Western Conference. The Spurs were two games back prior to the Warriors-Grizzlies game.

After returning home from San Antonio, the Warriors face the Rockets next Friday night and the Washington Wizards at home on April 2.

All five teams during this stretch are either in the playoffs and likely to be in. The Warriors entered Sunday with a combined 2-6 record against those teams.