AT&T CENTER – “You know we’re a no-excuse team,” said Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks Monday evening, after his team fell to the San Antonio Spurs 122-105 in their opening game of the Western Conference Finals, without forward Serge Ibaka (left calf strain). “Serge is out,” continued Brooks. “He’s not coming back. We have to play better.”
By both a numbers and visual perspective, the Thunder really missed Ibaka, as the Spurs outscored them 66-32 in the paint, and Tim Duncan, who plays a bulk of his possessions in the paint, finished with 27 points and seven rebounds in under 30 minutes. Here were a few keys to the Spurs’ opening series win.
Without Ibaka, paint was open for business (Spurs offense)
The shot chart below is the Spurs’ shot chart on the night. As you can see, one of their most efficient scoring areas were two areas they look to score in, the paint and the outside. San Antonio finished shooting 33-of-49 in the paint for 66 points. By the shot chart numbers, the Spurs shot 31-of-43 (72%) in the paint.
Another factor was Duncan’s play in the paint, as you can see by his shot chart, he shot 10-of-12 in the paint. Nick Collison, who started in place of Ibaka, had little effect in limiting Duncan, and then when the Thunder went small, Kevin Durant had trouble also defending Duncan because he had to make sure he wouldn’t get into foul trouble.
With the paint open for the Spurs, they were able to operate their offense, as the team assisted on 28 of their 50 made baskets, with Tony Parker collecting 12 assists, and the Spurs being able to knock down 9-of-17 three pointers (53% 3PT). Aside from the third quarter (22 points), the Spurs put over 30 points in every quarter in the game.
Nine players from San Antonio finished with five or more points in the win, while five finished in double figures. Even a player like Boris Diaw was able to use the mismatch advantage of the Thunder small ball lineups in his favor, as he scored nine points on the night, mainly by posting smaller defenders. Manu Ginobili worked himself out of his slump from the previous round, by scoring all 18 of his points in the second half, on 7-of-9 shooting. Ginobili was able to effectively score and create plays in the paint off pick-and-rolls.
“That’s what we were really focusing on, knowing that Serge Ibaka was not in there,” said Diaw after game of attacking the paint.
“I thought they were able to get anything they wanted,” said Brooks, “66 points in the paint, 40 at halftime.”
“Look, Serge is not going to be here,” said Durant after the game. “He’s injured for the rest of the postseason, so we’ve got to move past that and just keep playing as a team.”
Limiting the Thunder duo in the second half
In observing the full box score, Durant and Russell Westbrook put together a productive game, as the duo scored 53 combined points on 19-of-40 shooting. Westbrook in particular put the Spurs on their heels early in the third quarter, as he scored 12 points in the quarter, and helped the Thunder erase a 15-point deficit, to lead 76-75 with 5:09 left in the third.
After taking the punch from the Thunder, the Spurs’ defense responded with a punch of their own, by outscoring Oklahoma City 47-29 from the five minute mark of the third, all the way to the end of the game. In those last 17 minutes of play, the Spurs’ defense locked down Durant and Westbrook, holding the duo to 4-of-11 shooting for just 11 combined points.
“He keeps getting better and better…”- Diaw on Leonard
As Durant finished with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, Leonard and the Spurs’ defensive scheme did as much as they could to make Durant earn his points. Per SportVU, Durant shot 6-of-15 on contested shots.
Leonard didn’t just do what he could defensively with six rebounds, three steals, and one block, but he also wanted to make Durant work on the defensive end, by being aggressive and attacking the Thunder.
“I definitely wanted to make him work (on the defense end),” said Leonard of Durant after the game. Leonard did just that, by taking the second most amount of shots (16) for the Spurs, and finishing with 16 points and two assists. One of his most memorable plays on the night was this 1-on-2 layup (H/T @CJZero) he made in the second half, which sent the AT&T Center in an uproar.
(Shot charts, statistics via NBA.com/Stats)