Lost in the 124-92 demolition of the Thunder in Game 1 was the defensive execution. Offense will be the story when you score 124 points, and deservedly so. But the Spurs all year have used a successful defensive formula against Oklahoma City. We've yet to see an effective adjustment from the Thunder. The strategy is as follows:
The Thunder Rules
1. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green match up with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
2. The two big men in the game aggressively double team, switch, and help onto Westbrook and Durant
3. Whoever is defending the other guard (Andre Roberson, Cameron Payne, Dion Waiters, etc.) helps in the lane
4. Leave that aforementioned guard wide open and put pressure on him to make a decision
This strategy has worked because while you can't shut down Westbrook and Durant, you can throw multiple bodies at them and make every possession laborious for them. Ibaka has plateaued offensively for various reasons, and nobody else on the Thunder has proven to be a consistent threat (other than Kanter, but if he's in over Adams you get those points back on the other end).
In this play here, you'll see the above tenets in action. Especially look at Tony Parker who is responsible for points #3 and #4.
Kawhi Leonard vs. Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Serge Ibaka
Danny Green vs. Russell Westbrook
Tim Duncan vs. Steven Adams
Tony Parker vs. Andre Roberson
1. Danny Green is on Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard is on Kevin Durant. The Spurs are able to hide Tony Parker on Andre Roberson.
2. As the play starts, Kevin Durant runs a pick and roll from the wing with Serge Ibaka. LaMarcus Aldridge completely switches onto Durant, and Leonard stays close as well. This is as close to a double team as possible without entirely committing. Leonard is smart enough to stay within arm's length of Ibaka who can knock down the mid-range shot. When Durant passes to Serge, forced by Aldridge (tenet 2), Leonard is in great position.
Ibaka gives it back to Durant who has the slower Aldridge on him. Look at Tim Duncan immediately get into help position on the block, ready for the drive. With Duncan set up to help on the penetration, Aldridge overplays to take away the jumper.
3. With Duncan and Aldridge focused on Durant, and Green and Leonard halfway between their men (Westbrook and Ibaka at this point) and the basket, this would in theory leave Steven Adams wide open. This is part 3 and involves the most coordination. Tony Parker completely leaves Andre Roberson and bodies Steven Adams. While this is a huge mismatch in size, Adams is not a great post up player, and Parker stays in front, preventing an easy dump off (watch this develop from 14 to 9 seconds on the shot clock).
4. The Spurs get what they want. With Andre Roberson left wide open, Durant has no choice but to pass it to him in the corner. Roberson has enough time to shoot, but with Danny Green rotating to close, he chooses to swing it to Westbrook, and Kawhi switches from Ibaka onto Westbrook.
At this point Ibaka is wide open, but with Duncan able to return to Steven Adams, both Aldridge (Ibaka's original defender) and Tony Parker blitz Ibaka. The Spurs now have their best defender in Leonard on Westbrook, Duncan on Adams, and Green is able to keep Durant honest (yes they are still leaving Roberson wide open). Tony Parker is nowhere near his "assignment" and is playing free safety. It is 4 on 5 basketball.
Serge swings it back to Westbrook to get out of the double team, but it's too little too late. Steven Adams is not able to get out of the lane, and the three second violation is called with 4.3 left on the shot clock.
It's easy to blame Adams, but with the Thunder playing hot potato, the play has broken down, and he is likely unsure where to go at this point. With Roberson shooting 31% from three, the Spurs are able to let him stand freely in the corner, and double accordingly. Parker can help just enough on Adams to allow Duncan and Aldridge to double aggressively on Westbrook and Durant. As long as someone is there to contest Ibaka, the Thunder's only open shot is Roberson. He doesn't want to take it.
We've seen this look from the Spurs against the Thunder during the regular season and now in Game 1. Billy Donovan and his staff have yet to find a counter. Starting Waiters and Kanter would make it hard for the Spurs to employ this strategy, but then Oklahoma City would give up a lot on the defensive end. Would Randy Foye help them? Without a readily apparent solution, the Spurs should feel pretty good heading into Monday night's game 2.