The San Antonio Spurs took Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals with a thrilling 122-105 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tonight, the Spurs look to take a 2-0 lead in the series before going back to OKC for game 3 on Sunday, May 25.
There were several things the Spurs did well in Game 1 that helped them take the lead in the series, and they’re going to have to do all those things well tonight and more. Here are a couple of things you can look for tonight to be the Spurs keys to victory:
1. Great defense from Kawhi Leonard
In Game 1, Leonard was on the floor for 39 minutes of Kevin Durant’s 40. Durant led the Thunder in scoring with 28 points, but Leonard made him work for every single point.
“You’re obviously not going to stop him, but making him work hard is certainly the plan. I thought Kawhi was good, didn’t foul, but I think the team did a nice job behind him helping him,” coach Gregg Popovich said after Game 1.
Look for Leonard to be back guarding Durant and making him work for every basket. Also, look for him to have a solid game offensively too. He had 16 points and 3 steals in game 1.
2. Points in the Paint
The Spurs had 66 of their 122 points in the paint, a number that was huge given the fact that Serge Ibaka is out for the rest of the postseason. Watch for the Spurs to try to continue to capitalize on his absence and get into the paint as much as possible.
“We always want to try to penetrate, that’s how we play. You know, obviously it’s a little bit better with him not being in the paint, but we’re still going to try to penetrate and make stuff happen,” Tony Parker said when asked about Ibaka’s absence after game 1.
3. Adjusting to the changes OKC makes
There’s no doubt that OKC will make some adjustments going into tonight’s game. The biggest change to look for: their defense. In fact, coach Scott Brooks mentioned “defense” 14 times in his postgame interview.
“Well, we have to do a much better job defensively. We take pride in our defensive play, but tonight we didn’t play a good enough defense to beat this team…I think we need more from everybody defensively…I keep harping on the defense,” Brooks went on to say to the media after Game 1.
However, don’t be too concerned the Spurs won’t be able to adjust.
“They’re going to have to do some different things probably, play different point, but I think no matter what either team does, we’ve each seen it before,” Popovich said.
4. Stronger third quarter
In Game 1, the Thunder rallied to cut their deficit and at one point take the lead. The Thunder also outscored the Spurs in the third, 23-22. To help the Spurs come out with a win tonight, their intensity will need to be consistent throughout the entire game.
“I didn’t think we reacted very well to their physicality. The ball stopped moving, changing sides, the attack stopped, and at the same time Russell attacked us,” Popovich said.
There’s no doubt the Spurs will need to focus even more in the third to insure the Thunder don’t make a run in the third quarter of Game 2.
Tipoff is set for tonight at 8 p.m. CST. And don’t forget to follow the Project Spurs staff writers, including myself, tonight on Twitter for up-to-date information during the game and post game reaction.