SAN ANTONIO — It’s the main event of the Western Conference finals: Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, All-Star point guards having their best seasons yet. One going for a fourth NBA championship, the other chasing his first.
This is the series where things change.
“We’re definitely going to go at him. It’s not going to be like Dallas or the Lakers,” Parker said Wednesday, referring to the first two teams the Oklahoma City Thunder demolished in the playoffs. “Their point guards are not as aggressive. It’s going to be a little bit different. We’re going to go at him.”
Parker scored 42 points on the Thunder doing just that already this year.
And, yes – that February showcase still bothers Westbrook.
“A little bit, yeah.”
The rematch begins Sunday.
That gives both the Thunder and San Antonio Spurs – the only teams who occupied first place in the Western Conference since the second week of the season – plenty of rest before for Game 1 between the two most dominating teams of the playoffs so far.
The Spurs have won 18 in a row and swept Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers, winning by an average of nearly 14 points. The Thunder clobbered the defending champion Mavericks in four games and lost just once to the Lakers, when Westbrook averaged 25.6 points opposite Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions.
Against Jason Kidd and the Mavericks, Westbrook averaged 22.2. But as Parker reminded, Westbrook wasn’t tasked with chasing or stopping a scorer on the other end of the floor. Now, Westbrook will be playing opposite the Spurs’ leading scorer, who is averaging 19.1 points and a career playoff-best 7.1 assists.
It wasn’t trash talk from Parker. Moments earlier, he sized up Westbrook as Oklahoma City’s “head of the snake” and declared that the 23-year-old will be another “great challenge” after having just squared off with another elite point guard in Chris Paul.
But going from one All-Star to another is about the only similarity Parker is expecting.
“Chris is more looking to get his teammates involves,” Parker said. “Westbrook is going to be taking a lot of shots and be super aggressive.”
“We’re not in this position without Russell’s play,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We have a good team but Russell makes us very good with what he does. His talents and his skills and his work ethic and his determination, sometimes it’s hard to control.”