Western Conference Final Game 3 @Oklahoma City: Thunder 106, Spurs 97 Series: 2-1, OKC
We've seen this before.
No, not in 2012. Watching the first half of Game 3 last night, my thoughts immediately went to Game 2 of the first round against the Mavericks. Manu Ginobili had it going, making everything from three-point land, but aside from him nobody could do anything, there were far too many sloppy unforced turnovers and the defense was out to lunch. We know how that Dallas game went. Ginobili fell back to Earth and everyone else continued their crummy play and the Spurs were blown out at home.
The story of the game was obviously the return of Serge Ibaka, and I have all the respect in the world for him for the way he came back and played in Game 3. His pain threshold must be off the charts, but the guy was like Wolverine out there, seemingly re-injuring himself 15 times during the game and then immediately healing again. Honestly I was expecting him to impact the game offensively because you don't need to jump to hit wide open jumpers, but I was surprised by how well he got up to block and alter shots on the other end. It was mind-boggling. The guy is a freak.
That being said, there is no way I believe he had a Grade 2 strain. No way, no how. Either their doctors misdiagnosed him or intentionally fed everyone the wrong diagnosis for gamesmanship purposes. Sorry, I'm just not buying what they're selling.
The thing is, as well as Ibaka played, his effect on the game is being overstated to a ridiculous degree. In the second half rookie Steven Adams was actually more effective and impactful for the Thunder than Ibaka was, with three blocks and six boards. As Ibaka's understudy he closed off the paint just as well.
For whatever reason the Chesapeake Energy Arena is in the Spurs' heads. They just play soft, weak and dumb here, over and over and over again. Their shot selection in the first half was poor, and it wasn't just Tony Parker. Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Danny Green and Patty Mills all rushed outside shots early in the shot clock and most of them weren't good looks. The ball movement was decidedly lacking and the "pass up a good shot for a great shot" philosophy was junked.
In the second half the shot selection was actually a lot better, a few forays into Ibaka's gaping maw aside. The Spurs did a lot better job of driving and kicking and just missed shots. According to Matthew Tynan from 48 Minutes of Hell, the Spurs made just 14-of-42 (33.3 percent) of uncontested shots and Leonard, Green and Boris Diaw were 5-of-21. Take away Green's first two makes and Manu's attempts and the Spurs shot 2-of-15 from three.
Aside from their awful shooting and spotty shot selection what doomed the Spurs was how soft they were on the boards, and this is something we've seen before. They simply couldn't get a defensive board without Duncan. The Thunder ratcheted up their aggressiveness in the third quarter, going for the kill, and they crashed the glass as a team, with even guys like Caron Butler, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher going for boards, and they came up with nine of them in the third quarter and first half of the fourth, before the Spurs waved the white flag. It was a dangerous game OKC was playing because if the Spurs got those rebounds clean they would've been off to the races in transition, but they just weren't up to it, with Diaw and Splitter in particular coming up soft but also guys like Green, Leonard and Ginobili culpable too. It's like the Spurs simply weren't expecting to be challenged on the glass, because it wasn't logical for the other team's guards to crash the glass, and their brains couldn't process the unconventional game plan.
The officiating wasn't the main reason the Spurs lost. It wasn't even in the top three. The 22-0 free throw disparity in the third quarter was a bit much, and there were some questionable calls, but there are questionable calls in every game. The only truly ridiculous one that I saw was Mills being called for an offensive foul for kicking his leg out a bit after a three. Call that a foul if you have to, but the three should've counted since the shot came first. The only part that really annoys me is when the refs call a few cheap calls in the Spurs favor late in the game so the overall free throw totals look a bit more balanced.
As Popovich and Ginobili both said after the game, the Spurs have to play a lot harder to win a road game in this series. They have to be a lot sharper and certainly more accurate on their jumpers. The defense wasn't great, but I think mainly they lost because they were soft and couldn't shoot. Neither Durant nor Westbrook really went off for OKC, which is kind of scary if you think about it.
I think the Spurs will bring more effort and toughness next game, but I have no idea what to think. They could win the series in five or they could lose in six again and no result would shock me. I'll stick to my prediction of Spurs in seven, with the home team winning every game.
Was Parker awful, or what? He rushed shots, couldn't make simple floaters and was sloppy with the ball. He seemed more thrown off by the Thunder's lineup change than anyone. All of a sudden he has Westbrook guarding him instead of Thabo Sefolosha and it's like Parker couldn't believe his good fortune. He was like a kid on Christmas morning, so eager to open up his presents that in his excitement he broke them. Parker is the head of the snake for the Spurs and unfortunately the team took their cues from him and they all spazzed out* pretty badly.
Also, it's just maddening watching Parker on a 2-on-1 fast break. He's a superduperstar and a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer but my god I don't know if I've ever seen any point guard in the NBA who is consistently that poor at 2-on-1s. He just has zero feel for it. He either throws the pass too early or too late or in the wrong spot or telegraphs he's going to shoot it himself and the defender is all over it. It's always something bad. Hell, half the time he plays it so badly that he has to pull the ball back out and reset. It really shouldn't be so hard.
*That's an analytical term.
Some of you people still defend Matt Bonner on here. He had position and seven inches on Westbrook and was still outfought for the ball. Just embarrassing. I think Pop keeps him on the roster just so people can hold that misconception of the Spurs as old, unathletic and soft. He's the poster boy for all of that.
Speaking of soft, Puddin' Splitter made an appearance last night. Go away Puddin' Splitter, Nobody likes you. Tell Tiago to come back. In fact, the starters as a whole were pretty awful. And Diaw couldn't make a shot. Otherwise, the team was great.
What was Scotty Brooks doing playing Ibaka late in the game? How idiotic. The Spurs had waved the white flag and had Aron Baynes and Cory Joseph out on the floor and he still has Ibaka on the floor, along with Westbrook and Durant. Unbelievable. He doesn't deserve to be coaching talent like this. Brooks is the coaching equivalent of having Westbrook's talent and only using it to shoot from half court.
I like how he goes from starting Sefolosha and Nick Collison to not playing them at all. If guys aren't good enough to be on your bench then you probably shouldn't be starting them in the first place, no?
Your Three Stars:
3) Boris Diaw (11 pts)
2) Tim Duncan (15 pts)
1) Manu Ginobili (21 pts)