Jun 1, 2012, 12:22 AM EST
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.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:35 AM EST
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wondering how you could read a novel in 90 minutes, well, there’s an app for that… Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns. If all you think Gerald Green can do is dunk, you need to watch the tape from Thursday night. It may have been true…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:39 AM EST
Adidas and the NBA will tell you that the sleeved jerseys are selling faster than they had projected, which is why you are seeing more of them (including the “Latin Nights” series of games, that are going on) . All-Star weekend commissioner Adam Silver said math showed that shooting percentages were almost identical when players…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:40 PM EST
In the first meeting of the season between the Heat and the Spurs, Miami had little trouble securing victory in the Finals rematch, in large part due to the fact that the Spurs were cobbling together a lineup that didn’t entirely feature the team’s best players. The rematch of the rematch, however, saw the Spurs…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:21 PM EST
Plenty of teams are rolling out throwback jerseys these days, but the ones the Raptors are planning for next season may be some of the more highly-anticipated. Toronto will wear the team’s original “Dino” jerseys for select games during the 2014-15 season, according to an official release. “We are excited to bring back a piece…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:14 PM EST
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have his jersey retired in Cleveland this weekend, and his former teammate with the highest league-wide profile will be in attendance — despite the implications that many will attempt to ascribe to that gesture of personal support. LeBron James will be there when the Cavaliers raise Big Z’s jersey to the rafters,…
Mar 6, 2014, 8:01 PM EST
Dwight Howard returned to Orlando as a member of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and as part of the Magic’s 25th anniversary season, they played a video tribute to Howard between the first and second periods. Plenty of fans let their disapproval be heard, and boos rained down on Howard as the video began. Howard…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
And in some very surprising news, a college basketball coach supports the college basketball system. Larry Brown brings some credibility to this — he is the only coach in history to win an NCAA title (1988 Kansas) and an NBA title (2004 Detroit) and is remains one of the great teachers of the game. He’s…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:02 PM EST
If you ask league executives, pretty much everyone expects a 2017 lockout. They see the owners putting in the groundwork now for another work stoppage in three years and most people see it as inevitable. The only question is how long it lasts and if it costs games. Three years from now, the summer of…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:28 PM EST
I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember the Shaq Fu video game. What I do know is that people didn’t really like it. Which is putting it kindly. So Shaq is trying to do a sequel. Of course. Dan Devine at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie has the details. O’Neal and his partners at Big Deez…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:32 PM EST
Suns rookie Alex Len is the only current Ukrainian on an NBA roster. Ankle injuries combined with surprisingly good play from the Suns existing front line (Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins) have kept him on the bench much of the season. However Thursday night he is going to get the start against the…
Mar 6, 2014, 2:34 PM EST
If you want to beat the best, you need to learn from the best. Paul George wants to beat the best, and right now the best is LeBron James. LeBron may be the most physically gifted player in the game (arguably ever) but he also has maybe the best basketball mind in the game. Team…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:49 PM EST
We told you last week to expect this and now it is a reality: Royce White is now a member of the Sacramento Kings. The Kings announced Wednesday the signing of White to a 10-day contract. He was immediately assigned to the Kings D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns. White was the No. 22 pick of the…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:34 PM EST
You know what Tupac Shakur is doing right now? Having lunch with Elvis, Jim Morrison and Andy Kaufman. In heaven (or your afterlife of choice). Because they are all dead. Outside of a hologram at Coachella you are never going to see Tupac again… but then who was that at the Warriors/Celtics game on Wednesday…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:55 PM EST
Tommy Lasorda is a motivator. The legendary Dodger skipper was never a managerial genius with moves that wowed baseball’s intellegentia, but his players would run through a wall for him. He understood enough that is a limping Kirk Gibson wants to pinch-hit in the World Series you send him out there, but mostly he just…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:14 PM EST
The last time the Philadelphia 76ers won a game it was Jan. 29 in Boston. Since then the Sixers have lost 15 in a row, by an average of 19.8 points a game (a couple 40+ point losses skew that number). Coach Brett Brown is not sure his team will win another game this season…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:03 PM EST
The Orlando Magic showed their Dwight Howard tribute video, and as expected, fans booed (though not as thoroughly as I would have hoped during the entire video). Presumably, Chandler Parsons, now Howard’s teammate with the Houston Rockets, was not among the jeerers. But in a different time and place, he could have been. Jonathan Feigen…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:33 AM EST
The Nuggets got a pretty good bargain signing Nate Robinson to the bi-annual exception. But in exchange for paying Robinson such a low salary, they had to give him a player option for the second season of his two-year contract. That way Robinson wasn’t stuck being underpaid if he had a strong year, and he…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:07 AM EST
After ranking third in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have slipped to below league average this year. So, it appears they’ll target outside shooting with their vacant roster spot. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Thunder is filling its 15th and final roster spot with the signing of shooting…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:36 AM EST
Reports Carmelo Anthony could sign with the Chicago Bulls this offseason are nothing new. Even Melo has stoked the flames of the rumors. But most published work on the subject has focused on where Melo desires to play. Sure, by trading Luol Deng for Andrew Bynum and draft picks, the Bulls signaled a greater interest…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
The Detroit Pistons couldn’t do much to bother Joakim Noah, who had a triple-double in the Chicago Bulls’ 11-point win Wednesday. But the Pistons’ mascot, Hooper, sure scared the Bulls center after the game. Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $50,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Thursday night’s games. It’s $25 to…
- Thursday night NBA grades: Gerald Green just couldn’t seem to miss 0
- After rough shooting night LeBron says he’s “not a big fan” of sleeved jerseys 4
- Spurs get a little revenge, along with season’s signature win in takedown of Heat 21
- Suns’ rookie Alex Len takes to court with #prayforukraine on shoes 18
- Paul George wants LeBron James to be his mentor 41