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.
Sep 22, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT
The Rockets’ defensive system is not the problem with James Harden.
Sep 22, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
Jones previously played for the Grizzlies, Kings, Nuggets, Pacers, Mavericks and Hawks
Sep 22, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Former Pistons No. 2 draft pick putting some distance between himself and basketball
Sep 22, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT
Great job, Danny. Great job.
Sep 22, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT
Jones – who played for the 76ers, Rockets, Bulls (during Michael Jordan’s rookie season), Trail Blazers and Spurs – helped shape Tim Duncan’s career
Sep 22, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT
Chandler: ‘We are going to be a great defensive team’
Sep 22, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT
There were multiple NBA players arrested on domestic abuse charges last year. The spotlight on those cases will be different now.
Sep 22, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
This is the Marcus Williams who played at Arizona, not Connecticut
Sep 22, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT
James Blair can watch LeBron in person in Cleveland again
Sep 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
“The first thing I ever Googled about the man, the first thing that popped up was “racist.” So I was aware. I hate to say this, and it might sound ignorant, but I wasn’t surprised that all this came up.”—Blake Griffin on Donald Sterling
Sep 22, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT
A healthy D Rose could have the Bulls contending for a title.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:11 AM EDT
Toddler imitates Allen Iverson’s practice rant
Sep 22, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT
LeBron is gone but Miami is still playing small, pressuring the ball.
Sep 22, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT
Price will provide point guard depth – at least through training camp
Sep 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
“The truthful answer is I really don’t know.” —Danny Ainge on potentially trading Rajon Rondo
Sep 22, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT
Remember Sanders suffered a serious eye injury last season.
Sep 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Way more Andre Iguodala than you might expect.
Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Turner’s stock has dropped significantly since being traded from the Sixers to the Pacers in the middle of last season.
NBA’s rookie transition program tries to educate, but some of the information is presented in poor taste
Sep 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
You can see what they’re trying to do, but some of the things presented went a bit too far.
Sep 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Our first real look at the new uniforms and new court design.
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