Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio SpursAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
May 21, 2014, 8:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
Monday night gave San Antonio fans a new favorite number: 66.
Much had been discussed, debated, and deconstructed on the impact of the loss of Serge Ibaka for both the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. The absence of OKC's star defender was predicted to open up some doors for the Spurs offensively, but no one could have predicted how wide open those newly opened doors were going to be for the Silver and Black.
Sixty-six points in the paint later, San Antonio was able to capture Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals and sent the Thunder into the film room scurrying to figure out how they could plug up the defensive holes that showed up for Oklahoma City on Monday night.
It's impossible to determine how many of those points in the paint were because of the absence of Ibaka, and how many were because the Spurs are currently playing some of the best team basketball I have ever seen in my lifetime. To give the OKC defender some credit, there were quite a few shots taken near the rim that looked much easier than they did in whenever Ibaka was on the court earlier in the season. Nick Collison, Steven Adams, and Kendrick "The Scowl" Perkins were slow, clumsy, and stretched beyond their ability for the most part in Game 1; and that was just on the defensive end of the ball.
On offense, OKC's three big dudes combined for 9 points. Throw in Thabo Sefolosha's points into that mix and you've got...9 points still. Thabo, Adams, Perkins, and Collison shot a combined 4-for-13 from the field in Game 1, and couldn't surpass Ibaka's average points per game total (15.3). The offensive performance of these four guys showed why it looked like Durant and Westbrook were playing the Spurs all by themselves, and why Ibaka's absence isn't only felt on defense. Not even the "Spurs Killer" Reggie Jackson was able to contribute his normal 21.3 points per game that he averaged against San Antonio this season, scoring only 13.
Game 2 of this series is going to be a telling one. It's quite normal for the Spurs to play great in order to grab the first game of a playoff series, with Monday night's win being San Antonio's 10th straight Game 1 victory, but we most likely have not seen the same Oklahoma City Thunder team that we will see for the remainder of the series. It may only take one game to realize what needs to be adjusted in order for OKC to make up the loss of Serge on both ends of the ball.
We need to also remember that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put together a nice little run in the third quarter to take the lead from an 11-point halftime deficit. Durant said at practice yesterday, "That was our best stretch right there. We only played eight minutes of good basketball." Eight minutes was all it took for the Thunder to erase the lead that was created by an artistic first half by the Spurs. It's vital that San Antonio keep the number of minutes of good OKC basketball to a minimum because KD and Westbrook only need a small amount of time to wipe away a dominant stretch by their opponents.
Everybody, top to bottom, got a piece of the excellence for the Spurs in Game 1. San Antonio is unstoppable when this happens, and it can be demoralizing for players like Westbrook and Durant to watch what a well-rounded team actually looks like. Game 2 should go the Spurs' way based purely on momentum and the fact they are the better basketball team. As long as KD and Westbrook are the only Thunder players that show up to the game, like they did in Game 1, the Spurs are going to be just fine moving onto Sunday's Game 3.
Matchup to watch: The Thunder's third quarter comeback to retake the lead was due, in large part, to Westbrook. Sometimes he's on, sometimes he's not, but if there's one thing that will always ring true, it's that his confidence will never waiver. Kevin Durant is the best scorer on the face of the Earth, but if the Thunder have any chance at moving past the Spurs, they know it won't be without Westbrook going off. Tony, Manu, and Danny played okay when guarding Russell in Game 1, but I feel that "Hero Ball" is going to subconsciously make it's way into the game plan when Westbrook has the ball. What those three Spurs need to do is make sure Russell takes the terrible, ill-advised shots he's known for taking when the team needs a push. Westbrook is one of the most skilled players in the league, but no one can dig OKC's grave quicker than he can. San Antonio just has to make sure that they give him the shovel to do it.
|Game 2, Western Conference Finals, 2014 NBA Playoffs|
|May 21, 2014|
|AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX|
|8:00 pm CST|
|TV: TNT - Radio: 1200 WOAI|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Tony Parker|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Danny Green|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Kawhi Leonard|
|Nick Collison||PF||Tim Duncan|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Tiago Splitter|
|95.4 (9th)||Pace||95.0 (10th)|
|110.5 (6th)||ORtg||110.4 (7th)|
|103.9 (6th)||DRtg||102.4 (3rd)|
For the Thunder's perspective visit Welcome to Loud City.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 4.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 6.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:
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