After two dominating performances against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs look unbeatable. They handed OKC their worst loss in playoff history since moving to Oklahoma, and are just two wins away from returning to the NBA Finals. However, the Silver & Black are far from happy, and they know getting a win at Chesapeake Energy Arena will not be easy.
San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich has reminded his players to maintain an appropriate fear of their opponent. If they lose focus for a moment, it could result in a loss and let the Thunder right back into the series. On Wednesday, Danny Green connected on seven 3-pointers for 21 points, as the Spurs won by 35. Yes, the Spurs won by Kevin Durant’s jersey number.
Lost in the blowout wins is the lack of performance from Marco Belinelli. Through two games in the series against Oklahoma City, he’s scored five and eight points respectively, for an average of 6.5 points per game.
During the regular season, Belinelli averaged 11.5 points per game, while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. However, in the playoffs, it is a different story. So far, the Spurs forward/guard is averaging just 6.0 points per game. What should also be noted is Belinelli’s minutes per game, which have gone from 25.2 in the regular season to 16.8 in the playoffs. The minute limitations can be attributed to the different matchups opposing teams pose in individual rounds.
Belinelli’s postseason performance has been up and down. In the first round against the Dallas Mavericks he seemed to disappear, due to the Maverick’s initial defensive approach of sticking with he and Green, as Belinelli averaged just 3.1 points per game. In round two, he returned to his old form and averaged 9.8 ppg, with the Spurs’ ability to drive into the paint, and pitch out to their shooters. His best performance was in Game 1 when he posted 19 points during San Antonio’s 116-92 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
As the scene shifts to Oklahoma City, Belinelli must find his shot. In the two games at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season, he has averaged just 7.0 ppg on 6-of-18 shooting. He was just 1-for-7 (14 percent) from beyond the arc.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks will most likely continue to go small in the series and Popovich can match Oklahoma City’s small-ball lineup because of the Spurs’ deep bench. That would make the Thunder leave a player open and possibly free up Belinelli to hit the open shot.
Game 3 will be a very different story than the two games in San Antonio. I expect the Thunder to come out strong and use the energy from their home crowd to their advantage. If the Spurs can keep the same focus and play in the same way, I like their chances to steal a game on the road.
If the Spurs want to be hoisting their fifth NBA championship in June, they’ll need everyone to keep focus and hit key shots during games. That includes Belinelli and maybe a change of venue will help him get his groove back.