The highly anticipated playoff semifinal matchup between two elite teams playing at their best failed to materialize as San Antonio dominated the game from the beginning, and they routed the Thunder with dominant performances from Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs defense kept Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant locked down for most of the game, and the Thunder were made to look like a bad team by the superlative Spurs defense, which they aren't by any measure.
Kawhi Leonard started the game with bang as he drove down the lane and met no resistance as he dunked the ball over Steven Adams.
Leonard fell awkwardly and grabbed his hammy, which made Spurs fans everywhere grab their chests like Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son ... sorry I'm old. But apparently, he was just fine, as he and the rest of the Spurs ran out to a 17-6 lead in the first 4 and half minutes of the game as everything they tried on offense worked, and the Thunder couldn't do anything on their end. LaMarcus hit a few jumpers, Kawhi continued hot, and Tim Duncan got into the act with a layup and foul shot. From the start, LaMarcus was guarded by Ibaka, who could not contain him. At all.
After a Thunder timeout, the Spurs cooled off a bit, but they kept pace with the Thunder as Steven Adams finally got a tip in basket and Serge Ibaka hit a jumper to counter baskets by Tony Parker and Kawhi. Gregg Popovich, sensing a little lull in his teams effort, called a timeout with 5 minutes left. Out of the timeout, Kawhi hit another basket and Danny Green hit a three to extend the lead. On the next play, Danny Green beat Russell Westbrook to the rebound and got tossed out of bounds by Russ, but apparently that was only a common foul.
At 3:23, Tim and Kawhi sat and Kyle Anderson and David West came in, with the good guys up 30-10. The two teams traded baskets for a while, leading up to an odd situation where David West drew a technical foul for throwing down Enes Kanter in the lane while Manu Ginobili got fouled on a three pointer. After the refs sorted it out, the Thunder got one free throw and the Spurs got three, which seemed like a pretty good trade to me.
Cameron Payne hit a three-point shot, but Manu Ginobili answered and the Spurs were up 43-20, which was how the quarter ended. It could have hardly have gone any better for the Silver and Black.
The second quarter started with a charge from Dion Waiters. After a miss by the Spurs, the Thunder scored the first points of the second quarter on a fast break basket from Durant, but then Patty Mills got fouled by Cam Payne shooting a three point shot and hit the free throws. On the next Spurs possession, Durant fouled Danny Green on yet another three point attempt, leading to a four point play.
SPLASH https://t.co/3w4RxWCtne— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 1, 2016
The Silver and Black onslaught continued as they increased the lead to 30 with seven minutes left in the second. Then Westbrook, who had been pretty much invisible up to then, scored a basket on a drive which led to a Popovich timeout. He wasn't going to let OKC gain even a tiny shred of momentum.
Coming out of the timeout, Kawhi brought the lead back up to 30 on a jumper, but a turnover leading to a Westbrook breakaway layup(???) kept the lead relatively static until the two minute mark.
Nice defense by Russ for layup. https://t.co/OetSyzoeWE— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 1, 2016
Once again, the Spurs finished the quarter strong, ending on Kyle Anderson's block of Westbrook's jumper as time expired in the half. The Spurs were up 73-40, with the largest halftime lead of any team in this year's playoffs.
The second half started with a little more promise for the Thunder, as Ibaka hit a three point shot, but Aldridge immediately answered by beating Ibaka inside. Danny Green, perhaps taking a hint from the Thunder defense, fouled Kevin Durant on a three point attempt with 8 minutes left and they brought the lead down below 30. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Spurs were able to once again stretch the lead behind a poorly timed technical foul by Westbrook and Kawhi's timely buckets. The Spurs continued to pour it on, leading 100-61 with two minutes left in the third quarter. Kevin Martin entered the game with 1:31 left in the third, and LaMarcus Aldridge started to look like a man who wasn't going back into the game again. The score at the end of three was 105-66.
The fourth quarter was extended garbage time, but Boris Diaw showed he can play when needed by using his agility and size to get open shots inside by easily discarding whoever tried to guard him. Boban Marjanovic entered the game with 8 minutes left for David West and instantly had an impact with a basket and a block. Kevin Martin got into the act with a jumper as the Spurs bench got some valuable moments.
Andre Miller scored the final points for the Spurs as the crowd rose in unison to cheer their Spurs. Randy Foye scored another basket for the Thunder, and the game was over, with the Spurs winning 124-92.
- Serge Ibaka is supposed to be a good defender, but he was repeatedly victimized by LaMarcus Aldridge whenever he had to guard him one on one.
- The Spurs scored 43 points in the first quarter, tying an all time record for the NBA playoffs. Apparently they weren't too rusty from the layoff.
- I have never seen so many fouls on three point shots in my life. At least 4 times by the Thunder, and once by the Spurs.
- Chris Webber said that the Thunder were playing some of the worst pick and roll defense he had ever seen. He's pretty good as an announcer, and he's right.
- The Spurs shot almost 70% in the first half, and the Thunder about half that. They also scored about half as many points. Amazing coincidence.
- Popovich really coaches differently in the playoffs than in the regular season. Sometimes in the regular season, he lets things go for a while, while he lets his players figure things out. In the playoffs, he has a much quicker trigger on calling timeouts.
- Serge Ibaka started to find the range from beyond the three point line in the second half. He might be an important factor for the Thunder offense in the rest of the games in this series.
- The 'boring' Spurs scored over 100 points in the first three quarters .... yawwwn...
- Playoff Danny Green is pretty good. He hit 5 out of 6 three point shots.
- I have never seen Russell Westbrook look so passive. I'm not sure it was even him.
- The Spurs outscored the Thunder in the first three quarters. By a whole lot. There's a strong positive correlation between outscoring your opponent in each quarter and winning the game. But we need to collect more data on this, but the Spurs have been pretty good at providing it. Not this time, though, the Thunder outscored the Spurs in the fourth.
- All 13 Spurs on the active roster scored.
- It makes me so happy that Craig Sager is still working. He's a [redacted] inspiration. The San Antonio crowd gave him a standing ovation at the half.
"When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your D*** lemons, what the h*** am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!"--Cave Johnson (fictional character in the game Portal)
This series is a closely balanced affair, and one wrong move can change things radically.
A Public Service Announcement:
And now we hear from a different Leon--Leon the Lighting Lion--who tells us: when Thunder roars, go indoors!
Luckily for the Spurs, the AT&T Center is indoors, so they're safe.
Game 2 is on Monday, 8:30 PM Spurs time at the AT&T Center. It's another important game for the Spurs as they don't want to give up home advantage to the talented Thunder squad. I don't see any way that they won't play tougher in the second game than they did in the first.