Two All-Star Longhorns to clash in NBA Playoffs

Steve Helwick

The first matchup of the second round of the NBA Playoffs is set — a showdown between former Longhorns.

2016 All-Stars Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge will clash in a best-of-seven series to be held in San Antonio.

Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder cruised through the first round of the playoffs, defeating the Dallas Mavericks in five games, by a total point differential of 93 points. In the series, Durant averaged a team-high 26 points per game, complemented with 6.4 rebounds per game. Not everything went smoothly for Durant, who was ejected in the series’ fourth game for a flagrant foul on Mavericks rookie Justin Anderson.

LaMarcus Aldridge, in his first playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs, dominated the Memphis Grizzlies. Aldridge scored 58 points in the four games and snagged in a team-high 32 rebounds to win his second playoff series of his 10-year career. Because the Spurs won by an average of 22 points per game over Memphis, Aldridge received substantial amount of rest in the series, allowing his dislocated finger to heal during the long playoff push.

The No. 2 seed Spurs hold home-court advantage over the No. 3 seed Thunder in a series between annual Western Conference heavyweights. This will be the third meeting in five years between the Thunder and Spurs in the playoffs but the first postseason matchup between Durant and Aldridge. 

During the 2015–16 regular season, Aldridge’s Spurs and Durant’s Thunder each claimed one victory from the two occasions they collided. Aldridge’s floor spacing is one of the Spurs major advantages in this matchup. This could lure Oklahoma City’s big men out of the paint to defend the high post.

To counter San Antonio’s attack, the high-ball screen to Durant has become a focal point for the Thunder, providing Durant the option to pullup for a 10-14 foot jumper (54.7 percent this season) or drive into the paint, utilizing his 6-foot-11-inch frame as a weapon against defenses.

When the series concludes, only one Longhorn will be remaining in the West, closer to his first championship.