In the first two games of the series, the San Antonio Spurs completely and utterly lit up a team that contained the 2014 MVP and one of the most dynamic point guards in the league. Both were rendered helpless and the nation was prepared to exalt Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich and his team as one of the greatest ever assembled. The score differential alone in Games 1 and 2 were enough to make people wonder if there was going to be any stopping this team that played as one organism.
Then, thanks in part to the miracle of modern medicine, the one factor that was missing in the first two games for the Thunder returned and nothing has been the same since. In gearing up for Game 3, Serge Ibaka did "whatever he did" to get over the pain, threw his OKC jersey back on, and basically did this to the NBA contingent:
Ibaka completely erased any memory of an OKC struggle against the Spurs.
Now, if you listen to pretty much anyone talk about the series, I'm sure we will all begin to hear people divide it up between B.I. (Before Ibaka) and A.I. (After Ibaka) eras. Since returning, this guy has definitely altered the way San Antonio goes about their offense in the paint, but it would be insulting to everything Popovich has done in his career to be able to simply point to Serge and say he was the difference between the Spurs blowing out the Thunder and the Thunder blowing out the Spurs.
Last night, San Antonio's offense started out hot, but as soon as OKC began to heat up, the Silver and Black's offense started to get lazy. The movement around the perimeter looked really slow, as did the passes to the interior. Lackadaisical passes and simply not taking care of the ball lead to 12 Thunder steals, compared to San Antonio's 4.
Westbrook had one more steal than the entire Spurs squad, which was just an added bonus to his already 40 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds. Russell is an incredibly talented player, but it always seems like his biggest games come in blowouts. Scott Brooks is notorious for leaving his starters in the game longer than he should, and games where OKC is up big late in the contest usually means Westbrook can play his erratic, poor-decision-making style of basketball without any repercussions, leading to a padded stat sheet. Shade being thrown or not, he is a highly active point guard who feeds off of emotion and has the offensive ability that the Spurs weren't able to handle in Game 4.
This was especially evident in OKC's transition offense, where there were a few plays that appeared as if Russell pushed the ball up the court against... almost nobody. Almost as bad as San Antonio's transition D was the transition O, which was literally nonexistent in Game 4. The Spurs did not have a single transition play the entire game. This not only exhibits how slow the offense appeared to be moving, but also the lack of urgency that took place at any point of the game.
The series is even, and I'm now, more than ever, happy that the Spurs have home court advantage. This series looks like it's going to go seven games, which may create some rest issues based on how the Heat-Pacers series looks at this moment. San Antonio needs to find a way to make the bleeding stop and force this matchup to make another 180 degree turn.
Be sure to check out Fred Silva's recap for more in-depth analysis.
Grumpy Pop Quote of the Game
I can't understand you. You've got food in your mouth.
In response to a reporter identifying himself at the post game press conference.
Play of the Game
CoJo still unsure of who this "Serge I-block-a" is that he keeps hearing about.
Russell Westbrook plays basketball as if basketball wronged him.
Russell Westbrook plays basketball as if basketball wronged him.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) May 28, 2014
ESPN 30 for 30: Will the Spurs Ever Shoot A Free Throw Again?
ESPN 30 for 30: Will the Spurs Ever Shoot A Free Throw Again?— John. (@JohnxDiaz) May 28, 2014
The OKC training room is just two dudes crushing oxycontin pills into a fine powder.
The OKC training room is just two dudes crushing oxycontin pills into a fine powder.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) May 28, 2014
Boris Diaw saw his percentage on uncontested shots last game and just didn't want to take any chances.
Boris Diaw saw his percentage on uncontested shots last game and just didn't want to take any chances.— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) May 28, 2014
I mean, of COURSE the Spurs cube steaks come in and play well.
I mean, of COURSE the Spurs cube steaks come in and play well.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) May 28, 2014
I thought I'd seen it all when Cory Joseph dunked on Serge Ibaka, but then I saw Matt Bonner execute a perfect spin move off the dribble.
I thought I'd seen it all when Cory Joseph dunked on Serge Ibaka, but then I saw Matt Bonner execute a perfect spin move off the dribble.— Taco Trey Kerby (@treykerby) May 28, 2014
I'm actually starting to believe KD is scared of Matt.
I'm actually starting to believe KD is scared of Matt.— Luke Bonner (@LukeyBonner) May 28, 2014
look let’s get this over with Tim Duncan has a game of minesweeper he left open on his computer back home
look let’s get this over with Tim Duncan has a game of minesweeper he left open on his computer back home— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) May 28, 2014