OKLAHOMA CITY -- If the San Antonio Spurs are indeed better than they were last season, it's not because of any offseason moves. Patty Mills taking over Gary Neal's spot as the heat check microwave off the bench is a lateral move, even if it signifies improvement on Mills' part. Marco Belinelli has been a disaster for San Antonio, and his short leash in the Western Conference Finals shows that.
The biggest improvement, however, is Boris Diaw. Yes, the ex-Bobcat consistently mocked for his rolly-polly shape has become the difference maker for San Antonio. He certainly was in the Spurs' 112-107 win over the Thunder to return to the Finals. Diaw scored 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead the Spurs. Lead them! In the clinching game for the West!
"Boris was amazing," Tim Duncan said after the game. "He's had an unbelievable series all around. He's played well and he's found away to be effective when they went small, against their small guys in the post. He's attacked Serge real well the entire series, shot the ball well, tried to pull Serge away from the basket.
"He made plays all around and I think he's just gotten into a comfort zone where he knew where shots were coming from. He knew how he could attack these guys and he did exactly that tonight. He made some shots, made some big ones for us and really carried us tonight."
Thunder guard Nick Collison noticed Diaw's impact as well, also noting, like Duncan how Diaw was able to attack smaller players in the post. That seems a misnomer, the bigs should dominate with size in the post? But when you factor the quickness of defenders hands' deflecting and their ability to flop and draw calls vs. smaller opponents, this is a huge element.
Meanwhile, Diaw buried the Thunder from distance, shooting 3-of-6 from downtown.
Miami presents new match-ups, new challenges, but it's becoming increasingly clear that if the Heat Big 4 and Spurs' Big 4 (James-Wade-Bosh-Allen vs. Duncan-Parker-Ginobili-Leonard) are even, Diaw could wind up being the swing vote.
Just ask Oklahoma City.