Playoff Round 3 Game 4 Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder

Game 4 - Chesapeake Energy Arena
June 2, 2012, 7:30 Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 WOAI, 1350 KCOR

Ah, May. The almost perfect month. Thank God it's over! Now we enter June, the month of championships. I have always felt perfection was a bit overrated, anyway.

Now we can all get our focus back on the task at hand. The Spurs are not the greatest team in the history of basketball. They are not so incredibly good that they are impossible to beat. They are mere mortals. Gregg Popovich is not a being of superior genius who can read the minds of his opposing coach and conjure wins with his magical speeches. No, he is just a plain old coach. The Spurs are not touched by the gods or destiny. They are just a basketball team. They are one of four teams left in a tournament. That's it. And the future of the cosmos is not riding on tonight's game. It's just a game.

I am not smart enough to be able to figure out all the things that went wrong the other night in Oklahoma City. I'm sure there were things Popovich and company saw on the game film that need to be addressed, adjustments that need to be made. But from where I sat, the Spurs had the look of a team that was not really playing with enough urgency. Not as much urgency as the guys in blue. Maybe they didn't have Pop's "appropriate fear". Maybe they had a little too much confidence. It would be hard to blame them, if that were true. For the last six weeks, the Spurs have overcome any and every obstacle. Maybe there was a sense that no bad quarter was impossible to storm back from, no deficit too big to overcome. Maybe they were starting to feel unbeatable. I don't know. If that was the case, the Spurs should be cured now. They are quite beatable. The last time San Antonio lost a game, it was another rather embarrassing beat-down, the April 11 loss to the Lakers. The Spurs did a good job of quickly regrouping and playing with greater focus after that game. I expect that same kind of bounce back tonight.

Some things to look for: The Spurs must take care of the ball. Turnovers in this series have killed their offense and fed that of the Thunder. Next, the Spurs must trust their offensive system and execute. The other night there was overdribbling, little ball or man movement, settling for contested outside jump shots, telegraphed passes, and a whole lot of stagnant offensive possessions. The Thunder have done a great job of playing the passing lanes and clogging up the paint. The Spurs must make adjustments, but within the motion of the offense. Lastly, Parker must initiate the offense aggressively, and everybody must trust each other and the system a lot better. Parker doesn't have to score thirty points, but he has to continue to initiate the offense, penetrating the paint and forcing the Thunder defense out of its comfort zone.

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via cdn2.sbnation.com

I am not going to mess around with mojo or suckitude. I'm not even going to go there. I just think that if the Spurs are the team I think they are, the team we have all witnessed this season, then tonight they will respond. The Thunder are a damn good team, the toughest team the Spurs have met so far in these playoffs. They are talented, they are young, they are deep. They were one step shy of the Finals last season. They have come back from two games down in a series before. The Thunder are not the Jazz or Clippers; they are not going to lay down and give up. They are hungry, and they believe in themselves. The Spurs are going to have to take that belief from them. They are especially hard to beat at home, where they get that extra energy from the crowd. The Spurs are going to have to play their absolute best for at least forty-eight minutes to beat this team. What I expect to see from the Spurs tonight is just that, their best.

Lineups

Starters
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Manu Ginobili
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Boris Diaw

Key Bench Players
Gary Neal
Tiago Splitter
Stephen Jackson

Lineups

Starters
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins

Key Bench Players
Derek Fisher
James Harden
Nick Collison

NBA Stats Cube Lineup Comparison Here. Oklahoma City Thunder perspective can be found at Welcome to Loud City.

Game Prediction: The century mark is a pretty good measuring stick for the Spurs against this Thunder team, I think. If the Spurs break 100 points, they win by 7. If the Spurs don't reach 100, then this series is tied, and Game 5 becomes very nearly a must win.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.

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