May 29, 2012, 1:41 PM EDT
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.
May 26, 2013, 1:54 AM EDT
Mike Conley tried. Tony Allen had some success, particularly late in the game, but even he was not consistent. Jerryd Bayless and everyone else that tried pretty much got torched. For the third game in a row, Tony Parker’s quickness off the dribble was the thing Memphis really had no answer for, and his penetration…
May 26, 2013, 1:39 AM EDT
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May 26, 2013, 12:58 AM EDT
The Grizzlies had been here before. After falling behind two games to none in the first round of the playoffs against the Clippers, first by losing big in Game 1 and then by losing at the buzzer in Game 2, Memphis learned what it would take to crawl out of that hole and make the…
May 25, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT
It’s not uncommon in the NBA to have a team’s radio or television broadcasting crew unabashedly slant their coverage in favor of the home team. In fact, many clubs prefer it, even if the coverage can be off-putting to the more neutral observers forced to listen to a particular broadcast. The Pacers fall into this…
May 25, 2013, 6:30 PM EDT
There was a critical play late in the Grizzlies’ Game 2 loss to the Spurs where Tony Allen was brought down by Manu Ginobili on a fast break attempt. Ginobili grabbed Allen’s off arm and dragged him out of the air to prevent an easy layup, causing Allen to fall awkwardly as he came to…
May 25, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT
Golden State’s Mike Malone has been in the group with Brian Shaw and Mike Budenholzer the past few years — top assistant coaches that get interviews but have yet to land in the big chair. That could be about to change for Malone — it’s a good thing when the owner wants you. And the…
May 25, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT
Late in the fourth quarter of the Pacers’ Game 2 win over the Heat, Dwyane Wade elevates to try to get past Lance Stephenson just after he crosses half court. It appeared as though Wade was simply trying to hustle to get into defensive position, and had no intention of making any malicious contact. But…
May 25, 2013, 2:01 PM EDT
There have been seven quarters — 84 minutes — of the Western Conference Finals where the Spurs have looked much the better team. But the last 17 minutes — the fourth quarter and overtime, Memphis erased a 16-point deficit, pushed the game into overtime and made this start to look like the close series we…
May 25, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
Kevin Durant has a reputation of being not only one of the best basketball players in the game, but also as one of the most genuine human beings to be associated with the league today. And he keeps doing things to solidify that image. After a devastating tornado ripped through parts of Oklahoma, Durant personally…
May 25, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
After the Pacers took Game 2 from the Heat by defending well enough to get LeBron James to turn the ball over on consecutive possessions with the game on the line, Gorge Hill was asked if there was any player in the world more dangerous with the ball in that situation. “Yeah, it’s only like…
May 25, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT
The momentum is building in the talks between current Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and the Raptors, and the two sides are in negotiations to move forward with an agrement to bring the reigning Executive of the Year to Toronto. After a meeting that took place in Colorado on Friday, things seem to be progressing at…
May 25, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
LeBron James won Game 1 against the Pacers in the final moments, with two drives to the basket for scores in the final 10 seconds of overtime. To say he lost Game 2 in a similar manner would be overstating things a bit, but James did commit two turnovers on consecutive possessions with under a…
May 25, 2013, 1:49 AM EDT
Coming into this series, the Miami Heat gave the proper lip service to respecting the Indiana Pacers, but did they really respect them? The Heat had gone 45-3 since Feb. 3, you had to wonder if the Pacers really had their attention They do now. The question going into this series wasn’t if the Pacers…
May 25, 2013, 12:45 AM EDT
After the way Game 1 between the Heat and the Pacers went down, Game 2 could have gone one of two ways. Either Miami could have received the wake-up call delivered by Indiana and then come out with a dominant and inspired performance, or the Pacers could continue to make life difficult for the defending…
May 25, 2013, 12:06 AM EDT
As the final seconds of the third quarter wound down, Paul George dribbled at the top and sized up LeBron James, arguably the NBA’s best wing defender. Without the benefit of LeBron overplaying him or the absence of a rim protector, George drove left past LeBron and ferociously dunked over Chris Andersen as a foul…
May 24, 2013, 11:11 PM EDT
This series is so much fun. Paul George just absolutely crushed the Birdman Chris Andersen with a dunk. Just crushed him. LeBron James comes back down and drains a three. Then a little hand slap at midcourt. Respect. These are two teams standing toe-to-two trading blows, and most teams wither when they do that with…
May 24, 2013, 9:45 PM EDT
There is no way that should have been a technical. It’s the playoffs, we want emotion, we want a little feisty play… and frankly that wasn’t that feisty. There are Tuesday night games in Minnesota in January that were more emotional than that play. But Scott Foster has the fastest trigger in the NBA for…
May 24, 2013, 6:39 PM EDT
First Jim Boeheim has Carmelo Anthony’s back, now it’s time for another coach to get a former star’s back. Kentucky coach John Calipari was on the Adam “the Bull” & Dustin Fox show on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, and when asked about Derrick Rose and his injury — and the heat he took in…
May 24, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT
In Hollywood, they call that chewing up the scenery. Memphis guard Tony Allen has been fined $5,000 by the league for his overacting — technically violating the league’s anti-flopping policy — on that play. Make no mistake, Manu Ginobili fouled Allen hard on this crucial late-game play — the Grizzlies were down four with :26…
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