May 29, 2012, 1:41 PM EST
I said going into this series Russell Westbrook was the key to Oklahoma City’s chances against the Spurs — he needs to attack off the pick-and-roll, get into the lane and finish. Or kick it out. But he needs to disrupt the Spurs defense and put a lot of points on the board in the half court.
James Harden has the same burden on him — he should be the guy setting up plays for the Thunder in the half court late in games. Yet Harden only had one possession where he controlled the ball in the last 10 minutes of Game 1 and that is just bad execution by the Thunder. Harden is their best playmaker.
Westbrook and Harden — more than Kevin Durant — are the keys to the Thunder getting the Game 2 win Tuesday and evening the Western Conference finals at a game a piece.
What Thunder fans learned the hard way in Game 1 is that the Spurs are a relentless offense — they keep attacking, keep pressuring, keep looking for lineups that work then they exploit it. In Game 1 the Spurs had success by going small in the fourth quarter, which allowed them to get their points in the paint thanks to a matchup that favored them. They had Manu Ginobili with 26 points, Tony Parker with 18 and they had balance.
“Every decision you make, if it doesn’t work out, you always say, ‘Why did you do that?’” Brooks said. “I’m with you on that. I wish I would have played Serge last night.”
The problem is if Ibaka does play the disciplined spurs will just move on to the next option that works. It is what they do.
Which is why the Thunder can’t have their offense go stagnant as it did in the fourth quarter of Game 1. Which brings us back to Westbrook and Harden.
Late in the game, Harden needs to be the playmaker for the Thunder. The ball needs to be in his hands because when it is Durant still gets his but so does everyone else. In Game 1 Durant was the guy with the ball, and the combination of good defense from Stephen Jackson and little off-ball movement stalled out the Thunder attack. It opened the door and Ginobili pulled the Spurs through it.
On the pick-and-roll, Westbrook simply cannot settle — he has to attack and get into the teeth of the defense. The same is true of Durant. In Game 1 the Thunder ball handler on the pick-and-roll hit just 10-of-28 shots, and that’s not good enough in this series. They are not playing the Lakers with Andrew Bynum’s long arms back there anymore, the Spurs don’t have that kind of back line. OKC has to get its points inside.
All this does not mean OKC should just try and run on the Spurs — San Antonio is more efficient in transition than the Thunder. Over the course of the season it’s true, and if this just because an up-and-down battle it doesn’t really favor the Thunder. There were 97 possessions last game, the Spurs won. As was pointed out in one Spurs preview, San Antonio has won 21 games in a row when the pace is above 94.
It’s not about just being fast, it’s about being smart.
And it’s about Westbrook and Harden.
Nov 24, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
Well, at least Howard tried.
Nov 24, 2014, 4:45 PM EST
Things are not coming together as quickly as some expected in Cleveland.
Nov 24, 2014, 3:50 PM EST
This would make three Lakers players out for the season with injuries.
Nov 24, 2014, 3:44 PM EST
The bottom of the rankings are pretty obvious, the top harder to put together.
Nov 24, 2014, 3:08 PM EST
It’s in the hair
Nov 24, 2014, 2:33 PM EST
Former No. 1 pick facing felony battery charges
Nov 24, 2014, 1:55 PM EST
Bulls point guard says he’ll return tomorrow against the Nuggets at the latest
Nov 24, 2014, 1:17 PM EST
Pelicans guard dealing with yet another injury
Nov 24, 2014, 12:38 PM EST
Rockets without their two best defensive players
Nov 24, 2014, 11:38 AM EST
Trail Blazers star keeps elevating game. Will he ever level off?
Nov 24, 2014, 10:50 AM EST
Oklahoma City point guard throws down on Warriors
Nov 24, 2014, 10:14 AM EST
Do you prefer the original or the emulator?
Nov 24, 2014, 9:35 AM EST
Utah would reportedly send Jeremy Evans and Toure’ Murry to Brooklyn
Nov 24, 2014, 9:04 AM EST
Rockets center has missed last two games after plasma therapy on knee
Nov 24, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
Memphis can offer more money than anyone else, but Gasol will have options.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Wes did Gallinari wrong.
Nov 24, 2014, 2:36 AM EST
Few teams have been more of a let down so far this season than Charlotte.
Nov 24, 2014, 1:24 AM EST
Tony Allen has a little playground in his offensive game.
Nov 23, 2014, 11:00 PM EST
He is 0-for-13 in the Nets last two games.
Nov 23, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
This is funny. Cold, but funny.
- LeBron James on Cavaliers’ struggles: “I stink” 6
- Report: Lakers forward Xavier Henry ruptured Achilles in practice 10
- PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Life is good in the Golden State 8
- Damian Lillard, as stature grows, refuses to become content 4
- PBT’s Sunday Night NBA Winners/Losers: You may want to try and cover Marc Gasol 9
- Jimmy Butler on Derrick Rose: “We want him to be 100 percent” for the playoffs 11
- Report: Free agent market for Jeff Green is as strong ‘if not stronger’ than it is for Rajon Rondo 20
- LeBron James: “We’re a very fragile team right now” 55