It looked like San Antonio was going to run away with this one early. The Spurs lead by 11 at half time and stretched the lead to 22 in the 3rd quarter. They were making the extra pass, draining the open shots, and looking great in the process. To the credit of Oklahoma, they fought the entire game, cut the lead down to six points, and outscored San Antonio 35-28 in the 4th quarter. In the end though, the Spurs were too strong, winning 120-111.
This was a game of surges. After the Spurs came out strong and built their 22-point lead, OKC went into hack-a-Splitter mode in the second half to close the gap to six points. Oklahoma intentionally fouled center Tiago Splitter on numerous possessions to send him to the free throw line in hopes of exploiting his poor free throw shooting. Splitter responded going 6-12 from the line. Yes, we all hate watching it, but until it’s illegal, it was a smart move by the Thunder.
The real battle was fought at the guard position. Tony Parker simply out played Russell Westbrook. He out shot him, out passed him, and out hustled him. Parker went for 34 points on 16-21 shooting and eight assists. Westbrook went for 27 points and eight assists, but only shot 10-24 from the field. It was the efficiency of the San Antonio offense and the selfless approach that was critical to their success.
The supporting cast was also critical. The players outside the big three on the spurs accounted for 55 points on 54 percent shooting, while the players outside the big three on the Thunder only went for 22 points on 23 percent shooting.
The difference was that the Spurs ran an offense that created open shots, while the Thunder simply made extremely difficult shots. In the end though, it’s tough to continue to make difficult shots the entire game. San Antonio’s ability to keep the game simple and create open looks resulted in a more efficient offense.
If the Thunder want to get back in this series they’ll need to go small, keep Kendrick Perkins out of the game, and rotate Serge Ibaka to the 5 spot.
Photo Credit: AP