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Thunder remind Spurs, everyone they are contenders with rout

Jun 1, 2012, 12:22 AM EDT

Kevin Durant, Thunder, Spurs, Tim Dunan AP

The Oklahoma City Thunder would like to remind you that they are a very, very good basketball team.

For days now the buzz had been about the Spurs’ 20-game win streak, how they played like the old man at the YMCA that schools the more athletic kids with the extra pass and smart positioning.

But the Thunder are not inexperienced kids, they are a title contenders and reminded San Antonio of that — and maybe reminded themselves of that — as they routed the Spurs 102-82. The win makes this a 2-1 series in favor of the Spurs and sets up a huge Game 4 on Saturday night in OKC. It was a dramatic end to the Spurs’ streak.

We’ve got a real series now.

For the first time this series, the Thunder looked like the young athletic team that could overwhelm the old Spurs. Kevin Durant seemed to be everywhere, as did Thabo Sefolosha. The Thunder put on an offensive show with some beautiful fast breaks and powerful dunks.

But that’s not what this game was about.

“Defensively, that was about well as you can play against the best team in basketball,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of his team’s effort. “And everybody did it throughout every possession.”

For two games the Spurs torched the Thunder defense. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili got free off picks and drove into the paint, either scoring or kicking out to an open man who made the extra pass for an open corner three. Or, Parker would pull back and hit the jumper. Or Parker would pull back and hit a rolling Tim Duncan. The Spurs just got the shot they wanted.

Oklahoma City changed lineups, changed strategy and blew that up. They sat Fisher more and played Sefolosha on the ball handler, then switched every pick-and-roll — and they did it with a physicality and energy lacking in the first two games. OKC cut off the Spurs’ penetration — the Spurs had six points in the paint in the first half. San Antonio’s ball movement went away. Its ability to reset the play went away with the pressure. The result was the Spurs were doing more isolation with Tim Duncan and others.

That defense worked from the start, when the Thunder went on an 8-0 run to open the game. The Spurs shot 39.5 percent and had 21 turnovers in the game. Sefolosha had six steals by himself. Only two Spurs scored in double digits.

Oklahoma City turned all those misses and turnovers into fast-break opportunities. They got out and ran and got looks closer to the basket because of it. Durant had 22 points and James Harden 15, but Sefolosha added 19 (including four threes) and Serge Ibaka had 14.

The pressure now shifts to the Spurs, who must make the offensive adjustments — they have to find a way to use Sefolosha’s aggressiveness against him. They have to get the ball moving again — with the Spurs jumping the passing lanes, we may see more cuts (particularly along the baseline).

For San Antonio this is an easy game to write off. They are a veteran team, they’ve been blown out before. They know what they need to do in the next game.

But the Thunder we expected to see from the start are back in this series. They have awoken and played like a contender. There will be nothing easy for either side from here on out.

We’ve got a real series now.

  1. koloofai - Jun 1, 2012 at 1:14 AM

    Well look who decided to join the party..

  2. md23rewlz - Jun 1, 2012 at 2:14 AM

    Considering this was a must-win game being played in OKC, I’m not really sure if we can take anything at all from it. Just as I would be pretty surprised if Boston lost in Boston this next game, I would have been pretty surprised if OKC had laid an egg here. Much more interesting will be the Game 4s of both series. Not much you can read into blowouts (though the Game 2 blowout of OKC was sort of telling, in that it was a game that OKC needed if they wanted to swing homecourt).

    • lyndseymarieee - Jun 1, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      Game 2 wasn’t a blowout.

  3. La Gordita Linda - Jun 1, 2012 at 3:41 AM

    Helin, you’re one of those fair weather friends aren’t you? OKC did what they were supposed to do since Game 1. Only thing worse than the Spurs losing is everyone jumping on the bandwagon. Turncoat.

  4. jh4prez - Jun 1, 2012 at 6:06 AM

    Loved how everyone jumped on the spurs bandwagon.cant wait to see okc take game two and watch the rats bailing off the sinking old ship. #heatgotthis!

    • teambringitstrong - Jun 1, 2012 at 9:44 AM

      #heatgotsomethingalright

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 1, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    In my opinion, this was but a minor hiccup on the way to their 5th ring. Duncan isn’t shooting 5-15 again. Steven Jackson isn’t tying for the team lead in scoring again.

    OKC played their best game and the Spurs were way off. Sure OKC played better defense no question about it. But the Spurs played with no energy and basically played like they knew it was house money.

    The fact remains that if the Spurs play their A game, OKC can not beat them no matter how well they play defensively. Period. Game 4 will decide the series, and I think the Spurs will win. Not big mind you…something like 105-102. Tony Parker will score 30+ and Duncan will add 24 on something like 9-11 shooting.

    The Spurs are too good and everybody jumping off their bandwagon and onto the OKC bandwagon will be breaking their ankles jumping back off when the series goes back to San Antonio with the Spurs up 3-1.

    • Richard Phillips - Jun 1, 2012 at 8:37 AM

      You sure about Duncan? Because he was 6-15 in game 1 and 2-11 in game 2.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 1, 2012 at 9:01 AM

        He’s due? :D Good point.

    • ndnpaint - Jun 1, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      OKC made the Spurs look a little slow. And, these Spurs do not play with “house money” you idiot, they are not amatuers.

  6. davidly - Jun 1, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Note that the Spurs starters averaged 20 minutes to OKC’s 32. Thirteen Spurs logged double-digit minutes. It’d be easy to chalk that up to the blow out, but most coaches being down by 13 at the half and 18 at the end of three quarters would have had a tighter rotation. Not Poppovich. Wait ’til you see the adjustments in game 4. I’m not saying they’ll win, but it’ll be a lot closer.

    Either way, the Spurs will hold home court.

  7. allball23 - Jun 1, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    I think the thunder are on to something here, they found a way to contain parker and slow down the spurs offense. Game 4 will be very telling in this series

  8. rooney24 - Jun 1, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    One win doesn’t guarantee this will turn into a tight series, but it is a step in the right direction for OKC. A loss would have pretty much been the end for OKC. It will now be interesting to see how the Spurs adjust. I am guessing they haven’t had to do much adjusting so far in the playoffs, as they just ran through everyone. I would still put money on SA if I were a betting man, and hope that a little competition will make them even tougher before they have to face the Heat (likely). But, I wouldn’t count out OKC, as they are a very good team, and have the young athletes that could be what is needed to get past the older, precision team that is the Spurs.

  9. southbeachtalent - Jun 1, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    The key to the Thunders success was the semi-shutdown of Parker. Stop him and you have a decent chance. I expect the Thunder to take game 4 as well.

  10. sadnfl - Jun 1, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    I don’t know what games you have been watching. The spurs struggled aginst the thunder in game one. And found their footing in the the fourth to over come a the thunders nine point lead. And game two thunder struggled to get started and finally got into a swing a little too late to come back and win. Game one thunder lost by 3 game two by 9, not big losses. Thunder win game 3 by 20. The thunder are the better team they will win game 4,5, and 6 the spurs will try to keep up in game 4 git close in game 5 and it will end at home for the thunder in 6

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