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Thunder find some answers, still have many more questions

May 30, 2012, 2:16 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two Getty Images

If you were looking for them, there were glimmers of hope for the Oklahoma Thunder in this series from Game 2.

Their “big three” showed up — Kevin Durant had 31, James Harden 30 and Russell Westbrook 27. There was a run, early in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder were able to clog the lane, stall out the Spurs offense and make a little run. They may have found a lineup to close out games (if they just replace Derek Fisher in it).

The problem was it wasn’t enough. They are down 0-2 to a Spurs team playing beautiful and smart basketball.

But the series is not over. There is a chance as they head home.

But the Thunder need to find some answers. Fast.

The questions are mostly on the defensive end — the Thunder put up 111 points and were far more aggressive attacking the rim.

But they could not stop the Spurs. And that really comes back to they could not stop the Spurs penetration — once Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili get in the lane you are at the mercy of a little floater or a kick out to an open corner three. You have to cut them off early.

And for a stretch of the second half they did.

“I think we did a good job at the end of the third to the middle of the fourth just putting more heat on them, on the ball, really making it difficult for (Parker) to see those gaps, to see those passes,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said after the game.

The Thunder found some answers with a lineup of Westbrook, Durant, Derek Fisher, James Harden and Serge Ibaka — a variation on their small lineup — that clogged the lane on the Spurs in and disrupted passing lanes. Oklahoma City made a 13-4 run in the fourth quarter that made you think maybe. It’s an athletic lineup (save Fisher), and that bothered the Spurs. San Antonio was forced to shoot contested jumpers that for a while they missed. The Thunder ran off turnovers (particularly Harden). The Spurs 22-point lead evaporated. To single digits.

But then Brooks made his second fourth quarter substitution mistake of the series — he stuck with Fisher once the Spurs started exploiting his defense. With Thabo Sefolosha, his best perimeter defender, sitting on the bench Brooks stuck with Fisher. Who missed shots (save one three) and was getting torched on the other end. Brooks can’t make that kind of mistake again.

Still, the idea was right. The Thunder blew up the Spurs rhythm with hack-a-Splitter them built on it. The Thunder did better for stretches guarding the paint. It’s just that the Spurs can beat that, too.

“You take away the paint, you give up something,” Brooks said. “They made 11 threes. That’s what makes them a good team.”

The Spurs are a relentless offensive machine, but the Thunder have the athletes to at least slow them. They just need to do it more consistently. They need more Ibaka and less Kendrick Perkins (a great one-on-one post defender, perfect for the Lakers series but less effective here).

They need the energy the home crowd brings in OKC, which elevates the Thunder game. The Spurs, it’s not changing them. These games could be played outdoors on asphalt with chain-link nets and they would do the exact same things. Gregg Popovich has probably even thought up special plays for a potential outdoor game. Just in case.

The Thunder have another gear, they need to find it, particularly on defense. They are learning what works, what they need to do. Now they need to execute it. Right now. At home, with all the energy that building brings.

That or this series will be over faster than a Kim Kardashian marriage.

  1. koloofai - May 30, 2012 at 2:33 AM

    Spurs are taking these OKC kiddies to school

    • lyndseymarieee - May 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM

      Pretty sure the Spurs have taken every team to school this year. I’m sure your team is on that bus as well.

  2. funktron2x - May 30, 2012 at 3:36 AM

    It’s down to wishful thinking time and grasping at straws for how to slow the Spurs.

  3. lakerluver - May 30, 2012 at 3:59 AM

    The Spurs are the best coached, most balanced, deepest, team in the NBA. They have no weaknesses. Okc’s time is coming very soon (maybe even next season) but I don’t see them beating the Spurs 4 times out of the next 5 games. And the only way the East has a chance in the Finals is if the league combined Boston AND Miami. The Spurs winning streak will end but I bet they won’t lose more than 4 games the rest of the way. Maybe 2 to Okc and 2 more to Miami.

    • ndnpaint - May 30, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      Dang, some of you people are acting like this Spurs team is the greatest team ever. Sure they are good, but stop drinking the water down there. If the refs could keep up w/ the games thus far, it would be a split series (check the replays w/out the announcer commentary).

  4. captainjackspuro - May 30, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    Most interesting PF in the world: I don’t usually posterize people but when I do, it’s the league leading shot blocker!

  5. funktron2x - May 30, 2012 at 4:27 AM

    Reminds me of the 2005 WCF. Spurs weren’t expected to outgun Suns, but did anyway. Beat em at their own game, vs. their homecourt advantage (remember that Suns version with q and joe johnson?). That was when all us Spurs fans saw that Pop’s greatest gift is being able to adapt his team to another team’s style, figure it out and do it better than the opponent. Sure enough, the Suns have come and gone, and D’antoni twice now – and there’s Pop and Timmeh, still contending and doing it like they used to but better.

    • patfic15 - May 30, 2012 at 8:35 AM

      Yeah. They had the rogue “official” as well.

  6. captainjackspuro - May 30, 2012 at 4:41 AM

    Exactly, I laugh when Kerr an Reggie say ” just go small and beat the spurs” . Pop and R.C. Have developed a roster that is so deep they can bring out a group to match any one u put out there.
    Adapt is the key word in ur statement, and it’s something pop is great at!

  7. anhdazman - May 30, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Spurs got their run on at home. OKC are no push overs at home. Their home court have some of the best fans in sports. It’s insane at OKC. OKC starts their comeback in game 3. I think the Spurs will win in 7, but OKC will be plenty mad and motivated.

    • teamobijuan - May 30, 2012 at 9:56 AM

      Usually the more mad and motivated you get, the less passing you do. Westbrook god madder and madder and launched more ill-advised outside shots after 0 passes.

      I say this as someone who wants OKC to win…

    • slopmcflop - May 30, 2012 at 1:05 PM

      Not sure why you have so many thumbs pointing downward. What’s there to disagree with there? Is it that OKC aren’t push overs at home? Because OKC home court is insane with an almost college like atmosphere. Is it that you think OKC will even up the series? Because that’s not outside the realm of possibility, but I can’t see them topping the Spurs, like you said. Is it because you said OKC will be playing mad and motivated in front of their home crowd? Because that’s just common sense.

      Meh, sometimes I don’t get people. Your points were valid and I say you shouldn’t feel bad.

  8. moseskkim - May 30, 2012 at 6:23 AM

    Heres an answer to many of okcs questions.. Stop playing dfish so much! Dudes a liability on D and cannot consistently knock down shots. At least sefalosha gives u athleticism and defense.

  9. abchome - May 30, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    The thought that the Thunder could be swept is scary…

  10. fanz928 - May 30, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    I’m looking for that sweep

  11. loungefly74 - May 30, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    amazing how a season can change the perception of a team and/or player. remember just 1 year ago, these Spurs lost in the 1st rd and there were grumblings of TD retiring.

    • southbeachtalent - May 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      A season? Media and fans knee-jerk on a game to game basis.

      We’ve traded Wade, Bosh and fired Spo various times throughout the year. I’m a fan of all sports mainly football. But NBA fans/media are the most short sided I’ve ever seen. Especially with the social media boom. Gets quite ridiculous really.

      • loungefly74 - May 30, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        i stand corrected southbeach. agree. i guess there is a correlation with the speed of the reaction/perception and the amount of media/hype/buzz associated with the product. i think we need to get used to it and just accept it. being a Laker fan, I have been hearing about how every year the “sky is falling”.

        football fan as well. i’m sure you’re excited about the dolphins being on Hardknocks…personally, looking forward to seeing lauren tannenhill strut aroung the facilty…oh-la-la.

      • southbeachtalent - Jun 1, 2012 at 9:25 AM

        I’m excited and apprehensive. We didn’t need any distractions, especially with a rookie QB..

        “personally, looking forward to seeing lauren tannenhill strut aroung the facilty…oh-la-la.”

        You along with the rest of the world!

  12. teamobijuan - May 30, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Westbrook and Fisher are taking the wild outside shots that Durant should be taking. Come on man. Get the ball in his hands. How many times does Westbrook bring the ball down the court then jack a 3 without even one pass?

  13. zblott - May 30, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    Why are so many people making a big deal about OKC’s great homecourt advantage like it will make much of a difference in Games 3 and 4? Their W-L discrepancy in the regular season between home and road is one of the smallest of the playoff teams.

    Utah, +14 (25-8 vs. 11-22)
    Lakers, +11
    Memph, +11
    Dallas, +10
    Miami, +10
    Boston, +9
    Clippers, +8
    New York, +8
    San Ant, +6
    Atlanta, +6
    Orlando, +5
    OKCity, +5

    • slopmcflop - May 30, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      Yes, but that home atmosphere is insane and you better believe it’s even more intense during the playoffs. An almost college like atmosphere. They love their team there.

      Oh, and OKC’s home record over the last three seasons in the playoffs? 13-4.

    • loungefly74 - May 30, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      zblott, i admire your tencity to go against the grain and create good debate but your skewing the numbers. what your numbers SHOULD and do tell me is that OKC is great on the road and at home. i think you have to factor in total wins as well to get a true meaning of these numbers…because this list makes Utah look like the most ferocious team to play at home…which is not the case…they just sucked on the road. OKC was 26-7 at home.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 30, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        I guess what he is saying is that precisely because OKC is such a great team both on the road and at home, going home isn’t going to do all that much for them. The fact is that the Spurs will likely take 1 of 2 in OKC and then finish the series out in 5 back in SA. They are just an unbelievable juggernaut right now, and I can’t wait until they run the over-hyped, multiple “championshipS” Miami LeBrons off the floor in the Championship.

      • loungefly74 - May 30, 2012 at 2:53 PM

        ahhh…gotcha. okay. i see his point now. thanks for clarifying. i do think “slopmcflop” is right as well on why playing at home is much better then on the road.

        is this the same “Chris Fiorentino” on HBT? philly fan if i remember correctly?

  14. bestcoastinfluence - May 30, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Spurs look unstoppable at this point. The only thing that is gonna stop a fifth title for the big fundamental is injury to about half the team.

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