After Game 4, I discussed adjustments the Thunder made and how the series now had a new landscape with the Kanter/Adams tandem closing games. This was all over the twittersphere and respected voices such as Coach Nick and Zach Lowe referenced it in their work. One thing missing from the discussion was what the Spurs should do about it. Go small? Now they'd be even more susceptible to getting crushed on the boards. Additionally, the extra guard has to defend Durant or Westbrook because that would shift Kawhi onto Kanter or Adams. Go big? Tim Duncan played 28 minutes in an attempt to offer more size than Diaw and West. It didn't really make a difference. It's hard to think of a group of five players in crunch time that checks all the boxes. There's been a serious upgrade in energy, rebounding, and trust for the Thunder with Waiters and Kanter closing games instead of Roberson and Ibaka.
So what did we learn other than confirming that Game 4 was not a fluke:
1. San Antonio's bench is contributing little
After Game 2 everyone was calling for Boris Diaw to take David West's minutes. Then West played well in Game 3. Overall, David West and Boris Diaw haven't been effective on the boards. These are high post and short corner players who do not bang inside in the way Kanter and Adams do. They can survive on Ibaka because of their versatility, but in crunch time they have not been effective.
Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills are not making shots at a high enough clip to make up for their defensive shortcomings. They've been so inconsistent that I would think about giving Kevin Martin a look if only to see if he can hit some threes when Danny Green is off or resting.
No one expects much from Kyle Anderson. But if he's not giving you much, then maybe it's time to trim the rotation from 10 to 9.
2. Tim Duncan can't hold up for four quarters to counter the Adams/Kanter lineup
I was a huge fan of Popovich giving Duncan 28 minutes to get more size and rim protection. Despite his offensive struggles, Duncan played well defensively for most of Game 5 and altered many drives. But in the fourth quarter he ran out of gas and finished with just 3 rebounds. Is it time for Boban? I know it would make a lot of PtR readers happy, but I'm not sure he's the solution to all these problems. He's unproven, and there would be a lot of pressure on someone who's seen little time in this series to suddenly be a savior. But on paper he seems like the only person on the roster big enough to challenge Adams/Kanter.
3. The Spurs are getting killed on the glass
San Antonio was outrebounded 54-36. Need I say more? I've coached, played, and watched enough games to know that you are not winning games when you lose on the glass like that. A team can't get stops when the opponent is rebounding a third of their misses.
4. Tony Parker has become the go to guy late and that is not good enough
I have all the respect in the world for Tony Parker. He kept the Spurs in Game 4 and has been great in the pick and roll. But last night he missed two huge jumpers, one that would have given the Spurs the lead with 10 seconds left, and a free throw. You can't blame him for taking open opportunities, but it doesn't sit well that neither Leonard nor Aldridge got a chance to win the game late. In a league of stars, I can sleep at night if Leonard gets a shot and falls short. Harder to stomach Tony Parker being asked to win games at this point in his career.
5. The Spurs Offense is all over the place
What's frustrating is that there have been numerous plays of beautiful basketball in every game. For some reason it gets abandoned in the fourth quarter. The ball movement stops and we get one of four things:
1. A contested fadeaway jumper from Aldridge
2. A long two from Tony Parker
3. A three from Green
4. A bruising post up/drive combo from Leonard, also contested
These are not horrible things. Aldridge has made a career out of these looks. Parker can be deadly from that spot. Green gets hot. Leonard has earned the right. But at the end of the day, are those looks the best the Spurs can do? And if they are, it hasn't been enough to match Westbrook and Durant.
The Spurs handled OKC in the regular season and Game 1 by moving the ball. Oklahoma's defense is not sophisticated or disciplined enough to stop that. But it is athletic enough. And with more stagnant and predictable possessions from the Spurs, the Thunder have gained confidence. For the first time all series, the Spurs looked like the underdogs.