NBA Western Conference Finals: Battle of the 6th men
Tonight a big battle rages in San Antonio as the only undefeated postseason team Spurs take on the surging Oklahoma City. This series is one of the most intriguing ones we will see in years past, as we see an array of really good match ups on the court. One of the overlooked match ups that will be interesting is the coaching battle between Coach Of The Year Greg Popovich of the Spurs, and proven head coach Scott Brooks of the Thunder . These two will try their best to cancel each other out, and watching it will surely be worth the time.
Now we know that the match up between Tim Duncan and OKC's post players will be important. The battle at point guard between Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook will be crucial as well. However the most intriguing match up to me is the battle between the 6th men for both teams. On one hand Manu Ginobli continues to be one of the NBA's best bench players. In fact one could argue he is arguably a top 10 6th man in the history of the NBA, winning the 6th man title in 2008. This post season has been good for Manu averaging a stat line of over 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists of the bench. The depth of the Spurs's bench this season has lightened the load he has had to carry in past years when coming off the bench. His team play, and odd match up to most guards continue to make him a hard cover.
In the other corner, there is Sixth Man Of The Year James Harden. To win that award with only two full years in the NBA, shows the value and maturity he has as a player. Harden has been spectacular off the bench this season forcibly inserting himself as part of OKC's big three. In this year's post season he has averaged a stat line of 17 points, 3 assists, and 5 rebounds. His size at 6'5, 220 lbs combined with his speed, and ball handling ability make him one of the hardest people to guard in the NBA. James Harden could start for any team in the NBA, and still Scott Brooks is lucky enough to have a player so young and so mature enough to want to come off the bench.
As I look at these two 6th men, the battle between them will be crucial. They come into games around the same mark, and play the same position. James Harden has the upper hand in terms of strength, and youth. Allowing him to score more in the paint, and defend better than Ginobli. However Manu Ginobli cannot be dismissed in this match up. The Spurs have been playing 5 years young, and the talent of Manu Ginobli will keep him in the fight. I know fans look forward to the battle between these two stars.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is tonight at 8:30 on TNT