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.
Feb 27, 2015, 2:15 AM EST
He was 86.
Feb 27, 2015, 12:55 AM EST
LeBron looked at Stephen Curry across the way and decided to make his own MVP statement.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:59 PM EST
Fancy footwork on display.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:30 PM EST
Rose will undergo surgery Friday morning.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:15 PM EST
Stoudemire has interest in a reunion.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:15 PM EST
Yes it’s a little late in coming, but it’s worth remembering what a quality player he was.
Feb 26, 2015, 7:21 PM EST
“30 minutes with Marv Albert is enough.”
Feb 26, 2015, 6:31 PM EST
Doc Rivers the GM is doing Doc Rivers the coach wrong.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:45 PM EST
He is having all or part of the meniscus removed, which makes for a faster recovery.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
While in theory he could return for a few games, in practice that’s not going to happen.
Feb 26, 2015, 4:14 PM EST
Good luck prying Cousins from Sacramento
Feb 26, 2015, 3:27 PM EST
He is weeks away from playing in a game.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:58 PM EST
3. An unfair standard
Feb 26, 2015, 1:11 PM EST
This will be Beasley’s third stint with Miami
Feb 26, 2015, 12:29 PM EST
Reports emerging Rondo ‘unlikely’ to re-sign with Dallas
Feb 26, 2015, 11:12 AM EST
It’s too early to say with Rose what hs legacy will be.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:27 AM EST
Charles Barkley would approve
Feb 26, 2015, 9:44 AM EST
Kings center wasn’t the only one kicking up a storm
Feb 26, 2015, 9:08 AM EST
Nuggets center just handed ball to Markieff Morris
- Report: George Karl controls Kings’ personnel, wants Ty Lawson, willing to move DeMarcus Cousins 26
- Paul George returns to practice with Pacers, could play in couple weeks 7
- Report: LeBron James wonders why he doesn’t get more MVP consideration 39
- Would Rajon Rondo leave the Mavericks for the Lakers? 57
- Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: The Spurs losing rodeo road trip a bad sign 11
- PBT Extra: What is future for Derrick Rose? Bulls? 13
- Mavericks suspend Rajon Rondo one game after argument with coach Rick Carlisle 43
- Derrick Rose is hurt again. Where do the Bulls go from here? 28