AT&T CENTER – For the first 17 minutes of the first half between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday, the Thunder were competitively in the game leading the Spurs 36-35 with 7:33 remaining in the second quarter. Then came the barrage of 3-pointers from the Spurs, as Danny Green and Manu Ginobili knocked down three 3-pointers combined, while Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan scored with penetration, to send the Spurs into the half with a 58-44 lead, outscoring the Thunder 23-8 in those final seven minutes.
From there, the Spurs would glide in the second half to a 2-0 series lead with the 112-77 victory over the Thunder, as they held the Thunder under 80 points on the night. Here were a few keys to the game.
Ball movement, motion, and penetration open Spurs’ offense
The base numbers are important: 112 points, the Spurs had two quarters scoring over 30 points once more, as they did in game one, the team threw 27 assists on 41 made baskets, and five players scored in double-figures, while 10 players scored 4 or more points, in a game where no player wearing silver and black played more than 28 minutes.
Whether it was Parker (22 points, 5 assists) getting closer to 100% with his speed and quickness, penetrating the lane, or knocking down jumpers. Green, who knocked down 7-of-10 three pointers by himself for 22 points, or Duncan (14 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks) continuing to feast on the Thunder frontcourt minus Serge Ibaka. The Spurs just continued to use their penetration (54 points in the paint), and passing (6 secondary assists) to spread apart the Thunder defense for San Antonio’s 112 points, where the game had been decided midway through the third quarter.
Of the Spurs’ 82 shots, 44% of them were uncontested (36) on the night, and as you can see by their three most used scoring possessions via Synergy, ball movement and motion were keys for their offensive success.
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Kevin Durant was asked after the game what the Thunder need to do, to play better defense, and here was his response: “That’s a good question. It’s easy for you guys (media) to figure it out because y’all aren’t playing, but for us, we’ve just got to fly around. We’ve got to make more efforts. We’ve got to play a little bit harder, and got to contest.”
Spurs lockdown Thunder
“I thought our defense was solid tonight,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich of his team’s defense after the game, “more so than Game 1.”
Even though the Spurs won by a large margin in game one, the Thunder still put over 100 points on the scoreboard. Wednesday, that wasn’t the case, as the Spurs’ defense held the Thunder to 77 total points, and Oklahoma City never scored more than 18 points in the second, third, or fourth quarter. Even in the first half, when Kawhi Leonard got into early foul trouble, the Thunder had a tough time getting Durant to create and go on a scoring run. Durant and Westbrook ended up shooting 13-of-40 combined for 30 total points, with five turnovers. Westbrook took 24 of the shots, while Durant shot 16 of them.
The Spurs’ overall defense contested 68% of the Thunder’s 88 field goal attempts per SportVU. Here’s how the Spurs’ defense did on Westbrook and Durant per SportVU.
Whereas the Spurs played team ball for their 112 points, the Thunder had to rely on their two stars to carry the offensive load, and with the Spurs’ defense clamping down, it was difficult. Here was the Thunder’s three most preferred scoring play types per Synergy.
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There’s a popular phrase on Twitter that’s titled, “Russ goin’ Russ” when commenting on how Westbrook sometimes takes too many ill-advised shots in a game, whether contested or uncontested. Wednesday the phrase had meaning when looking at the isolations in detail. Of their 16 isolation possessions, Westbrook ran 8 of the 16, while Durant only ran two of them. With Westbrook taking more shots, it took possessions from Durant, and a player like Reggie Jackson, who only took 7 shots in the game.
The Machine since Game 7 vs. Dallas
“From Game 7 from Dallas on, I feel like we’ve taken that step forward as a group and been more aggressive, offensively and defensively, and kind of valued every possession every game,” said Green after the game Wednesday.
Since that May 4th game against the Mavericks, the Spurs are 8-1, and their machine-like play has them rolling, beating teams by an average of 17.8 points per night, while they’re shooting the ball 50.9% from the field during that stretch.
Manu and his curve ball
In the second quarter, Ginobili threw a pass that had the crowd in an uproar, as you can see below (H/T @CJZero).
After the game, Green spoke about the pass. “They kind of blitzed him in the corner, he was stuck further away than I expected and I didn’t think he was going to throw it,” said Green of Manu’s pass. “He still threw it because he’s Manu, and it was a curve ball, and I got it.”
(Stats via NBA.com/stats, SportVU, Synergy Sports)