Scouting Game 2: Spurs must limit turnovers, who will step up for Thunder outside of their big three?

“We’re going to keep going at these guys,” said Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant on Monday after the Thunder allowed the San Antonio Spurs to take the win in game one by putting MGtogether a ferocious 39-point fourth quarter.

The Spurs and Thunder both had one day to prepare for tonight’s game two, and it’ll be interesting to see what the result will be tonight at 8 PM CST. The Spurs were led by Manu Ginobili’s heroic 11-point fourth quarter, while the Thunder still couldn’t find a way to stop the Spurs even after San Antonio turned the ball over 17-times and even allowed the Thunder’s big three of Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden to score over 17-points a piece.

What type of adjustments will both teams be making? What worked well for the Spurs and Thunder? Is there a player or players that need to step up? Let’s see what the scouting report looks like for game two.

Spurs vs. Thunder Playoff Statistics

1. Points: Spurs (102.3) – Thunder (99.8) = Spurs

2. Assists: Spurs (23.9) – Thunder (17.2) = Spurs

3. Shooting percentage: Spurs (48.7%) – Thunder (46.0%) = Spurs

4. Three point shooting percentage: Spurs (41.2%) – Thunder (35.8%) = Spurs

5. Turnovers: Spurs (13.1) – Thunder (10.8) = Thunder – This was the main area why the game was so close and the Spurs had to play from behind, they couldn’t hold onto the ball or make the right decisions when passing the ball. After the game, Tim Duncan and Gary Neal both hinted that it was a mixture of rust and the Thunder’s active defense. Some turnovers were caused by the Thunder’s defense, Westbrook especially had his hands in most passing lanes, but the Spurs finally got adjusted to this in the second half and they only turned the ball over three times, as opposed to the 14-turnovers in the first half. Some of the other turnovers where just evidence of rust. On one play, Manu Ginobili was about to put the ball behind his back and he lost it. As evidenced so far in these playoffs, the Spurs work well in correcting their mistakes the following game.

6. Rebounds: Spurs (42.2) – Thunder (40.4) = Spurs

7. Personal Fouls: Spurs (19.0) – Thunder (23.4) = Spurs

8. Free Throw Attempts: Spurs (22.8) – Thunder (24.2) = Thunder

9. Fast Break Points: Spurs (14.8) – Thunder (16.9) = Thunder – Turnovers are the main way the Thunder score on the fast break. The Thunder scored 19-points off of the Spurs’ 17 turnovers. If you take care of the ball, the Thunder lose 17-points per game from their offense.

10. Points in the Paint: Spurs (48.4) – Thunder (37.2) = Spurs – The Spurs should continue to dominate in this area because they’re an attack style team before a jump shooting team as opposed to the Thunder. The Spurs outscored the Thunder 50-26 in the paint, and the trend should continue as the Spurs also did this to the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

11. Bench Points: Spurs (41.6) – Thunder (32.2) = Spurs – The Thunder were lucky to have Fisher going last night when Harden was struggling to finish his drives at the basket. But outside of those two guys, they’re very limited on the bench. The Spurs’ fourth quarter comeback was sparked by their bench of Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, Stephen Jackson, and Gary Neal, this shows the Spurs can always rely on someone from their bench to step-up if one of their starters is struggling like Danny Green was last night.

TS12. Jumpers: Spurs (37) – Thunder (45.3) = Spurs – Kevin Durant said the Thunder will continue to work to get to the free throw line by attacking the Spurs, but do his teammates and himself agree with his statement? Westbrook started reverting back to his jump shot after he was called for a charge, and Harden as well started shooting from the outside late in the game, mainly because the game was over when he started making those late three-pointers. Durant too was playing from the outside in the third quarter, before he tried desperately to get to the free throw line in the fourth quarter. The Thunder are a jump-shooting team, they shot 50 jumpers in game one, yet they average 45.3. I don’t think they’re going to change their entire offensive philosophy after just one game.

13. Shots in Paint: Spurs (31.5) – Thunder (29.7) = Spurs

Statistical Leader: Spurs 10-3

Adjustments the Thunder are looking to make

  • Coach Scott Brooks said he regretted not using Serge Ibaka in the fourth quarter, instead going with Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison. But if you watch the closing quarters of the series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Collison was always in there late with Perkins. Ibaka might play in the fourth quarter tonight, but will his presence be a serious factor if the Spurs have multiple shooters out there with Duncan as the center? In this series, the Spurs should always have the advantage in matching the Thunder with a small-ball lineup because both Jackson and Leonard are high percentage outside shooters.
  • As Durant mentioned, the Thunder will keep going at the Spurs and trying to get to the free throw line. The Thunder got to the free throw line 23-times in game one, they are going to have to be aware that the Spurs use the charging technique well.
  • For Fisher, he said the team needs to commit to playing defense on every possession and needs to limit their turnovers. The Thunder can play some great defense, as evidenced by the first three quarters, but what about when the Spurs figure them out? Ginobili for one was able to break those zone formations on the pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter and the Spurs figured out that if they swung the ball around, open shooters were spaced all around the floor.

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Spurs needed adjustments and continuations

Figure out the Thunder pick-and-roll defense: It took the Spurs a while to figure this defense out. In the first half, the Thunder would immediately go into a zone formation when the Spurs hinted they were about to run the pick-and-roll. Perkins or Ibaka would slide to the angle where Parker or Ginobili were looking to go, then this allowed Westbrook enough time to go around the screener and get back on Parker quick enough to block his shot or force either of the the guards to make a difficult pass. This worked for one half because the Thunder had a ton of energy out of the gates, but in the fourth quarter when Ginobili began to dominate, the Thunder weren’t as fierce in getting around those screens because they had already played 36-minutes of basketball, and hence Ginobili was able to break their defense down. The Spurs will need their guards to cut hard when the Thunder try this again, or make their big-men roll faster or get to their jump shot spot quicker to make the Thunder pay. 

Live with Durant being Durant: One thing the Spurs have to do is limit the amount of double-teams on Durant. Durant’s a scorer, he’s going to score over 20-points no matter what defense a team throws at him. The best thing the Spurs can do is stay confidant that Kawhi Leonard and Jackson can continue to make him work for every point he scores, that way it limits him finding players like Fisher from hitting open shots. Jackson played excellent defense on Durant in the fourth quarter by playing him up close and being physical with him. Sure Durant got fouled three times, but he was also 0-for-2 from the floor in that final quarter. Leonard gave him too much room to operate. With Durant knowing he could work against Leonard, he either used screens to free himself from Leonard and hit the outside jumpers, or he isolated Leonard and posted him up until he got into his sweet spots. It’ll be interesting to see how or if Leonard will change his defensive approach with Durant.

Attack quicker: One thing that worked for the Spurs in the fourth quarter was that they used their individual scorers, Ginobili and Parker, to attack the Thunder even without the pick-and-roll. Parker and Ginobili used pump fakes really well and got the Thunder out of their defensive comfort zones and this helped the Spurs continue to get to the free throw line.

Move the ball with care: In the fourth quarter, the Spurs tallied seven of their 22 assists because they were finally moving the ball with fluidity. Ginobili and Parker were attacking and dishing to open shooters or Splitter rolling to the basket, and when the ball was moved around in the offense two to three times, the result was usually an open shot. As long as the Spurs don’t turn the ball over by passing with accuracy, they should continue to keep the Thunder’s defense frustrated.

Paging Matt Bonner: Danny Green’s 0-for-6 performance garnered a lot of attention, but Green has shown the ability to bounce back after a rough game pretty consistently. In game one against the Jazz, Green went 0-for-2 from distance. He bounced back in game two by shooting 3-of-5 from three-point range. As Andrew McNeil told me, Green is a guy who you can tell has his shot on or off from his pregame shoot around. I watched Green in his shoot around before the game and he didn’t seem to have his rhythm like he normally does. Even at halftime, he still couldn’t hit his jumpers with a consistent rhythm. If there’s one thing you can most likely count on, it’s that Green will find his rhythm as this series continues.MB

If there’s one player who could have a big impact off the bench, it’s Bonner. This is a series made for him. He is a weakness for the Thunder defense because their big men aren’t accustomed to stepping out to the three-point line to defend him or Boris Diaw. Bonner got two open looks in game one and missed them both. He’s a player who can help the Spurs put a run together with his shots from the outside. This is easily his series to shine in; the problem is he’s shooting 39% in the playoffs right now. He’s had some great moments, like when he went 3-of-5 in game one against the Jazz. But he’s also had some quiet nights, like when he wasn’t able to make a three-pointer in two straight games against the Clippers. The Spurs need the Red Rocket.

The prediction

I think that if the Spurs can make their necessary adjustments after watching film and working on their mistakes in game one, they should be able to protect home court.

I expect that the Thunder will once again come out with a ton of energy. The Spurs will have to match their energy and make sure to take care of the ball from the get-go. So long as the Spurs take care of the ball, move it, and execute in the pick-and-roll, I don’t see how the Thunder can completely stop their offense. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden should all continue to shoot jumpers and attack, but will Fisher step up once more? The Thunder’s biggest question will remain who are their unsung heroes? The Spurs have so much depth, that if the Thunder big three don’t play almost perfectly, San Antonio is almost impossible to defeat.

I see the Spurs taking care of the ball early and building a 10-12 point lead with a big run early in the first half. I also think Green and Bonner will both find their rhythm and contribute offensively. I think the Thunder will make a run in the second half and narrow the margin to about five points, but the Spurs’ depth will once again shine in the fourth quarter, and I predict the Spurs will win by nine to 12-points at the end of the night.

Follow Project Spurs’ Michael DeLeon (@mdeleon) and Paul Garcia (@24writer) on Twitter for live coverage from the AT&T Center for player/coach interviews before and after the game, and in-game analysis.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.

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