10 down, six to go. The San Antonio Spurs are making this whole playoffs thing look easy. With another impressive win over the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, San Antonio is now two wins away from the NBA Finals.
The Spurs really seemed in control the whole game except for a few minutes when OKC made one final run. But the Spurs showed how well they execute under pressure and pulled out the win in the end.
Let’s take a look at what they did right.
What went right
I am impressed every game by a member of the Spurs’ “Big 3.” Someone is always ready to step up and take control of the game. Last night it was Tony Parker. Parker scored 34 points on 16-21 shooting (that’s 76%) and added eight assists. The guy was on fire and showed no signs of slowing down. He was able to get to the basket or shoot his little floater at will. He and Manu Ginobili also crushed the run made by the Thunder late in the game. If the Thunder don’t find a way to slow down TP, they’re in trouble.
Even though Parker stole the show last night (aside from a great run from Manu), last night was a great team effort. Kawhi Leonard quietly put in 18 points and 10 rebounds and Manu had 20. The Spurs game plan seems to really be working because they’re getting a lot of open looks. The passes are sharp and they’re finding holes in the defense to exploit. The Thunder have a lot of defensive adjustments to make before Game 3. You can’t expect to give up 120 points and win.
Even though Tim Duncan had a quiet night offensively, he made up for it on the other end. The post defense was great. Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed shot a combined 4-18 for only 11 points. Duncan had 4 blocks and the rest of the team added 4 more. Now the Spurs need to focus on the other guys…
What went wrong
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden combined for 88 of the Thunder’s 111 points. That means the other 7 players who logged minutes for the team scored only 23 points. Clearly the Thunder have only three guys who are going to hurt you. If the Spurs shut down just one of these guys, then the game is an even bigger blowout than it was. Maybe the Thunder don’t even get a comeback run. It’s just something to keep an eye on as the series progresses. If the Thunder get down, they rely on those three guys. Someone needs to step up defensively for the Spurs and shut at least one of them down.
Again, free throw shooting could end up being crucial. The only success the Thunder had last night is when they went to the hack-a-Splitter strategy and slowed the Spurs down. It’s surprising because going in to the series, I would have thought a fast-paced game would favor the Thunder. Clearly that’s not the case. The Thunder know that now and if they’re smart, they’ll start playing rough-and-tough basketball. The Spurs are going to have to start making their free throws because right now, that’s the only offensive weakness they have.
The Thunder may have found a way to slow the Spurs down. Game 3 in Oklahoma City will be fun to watch because we may see a totally different game than what we saw in the first two. I’ve often criticized Scott Brooks in the past for failing to make adjustments, we’ll see if he proves me wrong this time.