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Game 5 Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

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With both teams splitting home stands, the 2-2 series shifts back to San Antonio for the all-important Game 5.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Date: 5/10/16, Time: 7:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

The horn sounded, the players trotted back to their locker rooms, and Coach Popovich cast a nonplussed gaze towards the court. I wasn't sure if he was trying to express displeasure with referee Dan Crawford or if the cameras had simply caught him immersed in some idle, Ahabian thought.

The curious thing is it was only halftime then, and the Spurs had rallied late to go into the half with an 8-point cushion.

Still, the game didn't feel quite right. Tim Duncan, the team's only real rim-protector, had somehow picked up four fouls, and San Antonio was having trouble manning the defensive glass and dictating pace. And this was before Kevin Durant's 29-point second half and a poorly-timed lid positioned over the Spurs' basket in the final quarter.

The team's 111-97 loss was a headscratcher. Michael Erler's recap already weighed in perfectly on the problematic but not result-defining refereeing we saw.  Perhaps more perplexing though, was the over-reliance on David West. West was outmatched against Steven Adams and Enes Kanter around the basket, and even more off-ball, where OKC made a point to screen West and get him switched up on KD for what seemed like 10 possessions in a row, a matchup they exploited thoroughly late in the game. His contributions are probably greater on the offensive end, where his 18-footer can provide some much-needed spacing. But one has to wonder if said jump shot is suffering from the toll his legs are taking by continuously battling OKC's persistent Kiwi center on every possession.

It's conceivable that much of the decision was a legacy of the Spurs' March 13th win over the Thunder, in which West's play down the stretch was key in sealing the victory. We sometimes look at a gunner falling in love with tough shots after making one as a sort of unsustainable fool's gold, but some coaching strategies can be their own type of pyrite. And in a best-of-seven series, lingering for too long on a flawed tactic can be fatal.

There were other issues that damned them in the final period of Game 4. Poor shooting from Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge didn't help, but the Thunder supporting cast -- and the team on the whole -- stepped up exactly how they needed to in what may have been the most important 12 minutes of their season.

It's up to the Spurs to regroup once again and view Game 5 as a must-win. I imagine we'll see them match up better against the Thunder's big lineup, almost certainly with another rim-protector. Tim Duncan would make sense, but he's not a real threat offensively against OKC. Pop isn't the type to turn to someone like Boban this late in a series, but if the Thunder roll out their big lineup in the first half, would a bit of disruptive experimentation with the Serb hurt?

The hope, of course, is that unlike the voyage of the Pequod, a change in approach and some kinder winds (behind some kinder whistles) can bolster the Spurs' fortunes. This feels like more of a coin flip than it should, but the Spurs are playing at home, and that's usually a very good thing.

Key to winning: Play big or get big. Either the Spurs' stars will need another strong showing through four quarters, or San Antonio will have to match up better against OKC's bigger lineup.

vs

San Antonio Spurs

(Playoffs record: 6-2)

Oklahoma City Thunder

(Playoffs record: 6-3)

May 10, 2016

AT&T Center,  San Antonio, TX

7:00 PM CDT

TV: TNT

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Russell Westbrook

Danny Green

SG

Andre Roberson

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Kevin Durant

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Serge Ibaka

Tim Duncan

C

Steven Adams

Game prediction: Spurs by 5.

For the Thunder fans' perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

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