In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich got a little bit of his own medicine when Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks decided to intentionally foul Tiago Splitter, just like the Spurs did to DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Evans in the second round against the Clippers. It wasn’t nearly as effective because Splitter made 5 of 10 free throws, but it did accomplish the goal of slowing down the Spurs’ offense that was hitting on all cylinders up to that point.
Can we expect to see the same strategy in Game 3?
“It changed the tempo a bit,” said Brooks. “I mean, they were fast tonight. The ball was just all over the floor with quick passes, passes that were right in their shooting pockets, and it kind of threw their rhythm out a little. He stepped up and made [five] of them. He did better than his playoff percentage. But if on occasion we have an opportunity to do it again, we will.”
In my opinion, one of the big surprises of this series is that the fast paced tempo doesn’t favor the Thunder. I would have thought that getting up and down and fast breaking would help the younger, more athletic team. In reality, the Spurs work extremely well at a high pace because they can execute better.
The Thunder have to know at this point that the best way for them to play the Spurs is to slow the game down and play a physical game. Pure strength may be the only advantage the Thunder have, and if they want to win, they’ll have to turn the game into a slugfest. That includes the Hack-a-Splitter strategy to slow down the pace.
The crazy Oklahoma City fans may miss the quick pace of an exciting game, but I’m sure they’d rather win. The only chance the Thunder have is if they can out-muscle the Spurs. We’ll see if they make the right adjustments for Game 3 tonight and turn this into a series, or if Spurs fans can start busting out their brooms again.