Skip to content

Thunder-Spurs Game 4: Let’s get serious

Jun 2, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

Manu Ginobili, Kendrick Perkins AP

Seriously, this is the most serious of seriousness. This is the business. This game is monstrous. All those games before that were big? No, this one is big. BIG. Like, those commercials big.

Thunder-Spurs Game 4 is going to have dramatic ramifications either way. If the Spurs win, the Thunder’s Game 3 win is meaningless and the series is over. The Thunder could force them back to Oklahoma City for Game 6, maybe even drag it back to the Alamo for Game 7. But if the Spurs go up 3-1, that’s all she wrote. NBA players know the reality. They’ll say they’re not paying attention those things but that’s a lie. They watch NBC Sports Net just like you do. They know the stats about a team going down 3-1. The spirit is crushed if the Spurs prevail in OKC.

Likewise, a Thunder win? Forget those two dominant Spurs wins, forget the streak and the aura of invincibility the Spurs carried with them. Two straight losses and it’s a three-game series, with the Thunder with all the momentum. On a shortened schedule, steal Game 5 in San Antonio where they played decent enough, and the Spurs will be on their heels going back to the Thunder dome. Tying this series up isn’t about getting the Spurs off their back, it’s about wiping the slate clean. Everything changes if they win Game 4.

So how is it done for both sides? Five things to watch in Thunder-Spurs 4.

1. The Ol’ Switcheroo: The Thunder switched extensively in Game 3 instead of trying to recover with their man and it worked wonders. Kendrick Perkins guarded Tony Parker effectively. Thabo Sefolosha defended everyone effectively. It was a switching festivus and the Thunder were partying. To counter this, the Spurs have some options. For starters, Tony Parker can drag the screen to the wing as far as possible, putting the larger player in a tough position to get to the baseline. He can be quicker with the pass, quicker with the drive, and more aggressive. Likewise, running the 3-4 pick and roll with Ginobili and Duncan could do damage. The Thunder aren’t equipped to guard Duncan in space and you have to think he’ll bounce back after a poor shooting performance. How this elements is handled by both sides is a fascinating chess match within a “Risk” game going on.

2. Harden Attack: James Harden got his game together in Game 3. It’s a pivotal matchup with Manu Ginobili and whoever wins the battle wins the game, so far. Harden was more aggressive and not as tentative in Game 3, and he understands better how to get the angle on the Spurs’ defense. I’d expect a lot more of Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard on Harden. They can survive the points from the Big 2, not the Big 3. Speaking of…

3. Inevitable Barrage: Durant or Westbrook are going to shake loose. They’ve gotten points, but neither has had a truly brilliant, efficient game yet. Game 4 provides that opportunity. It’s not that the Spurs can’t defend them well. It’s that those two specifically are stars because of their ability to confound defenses with scoring despite good defense. The Wonder Twins have to activate and have a performance worthy of their brand value for the Thunder to even the series.

4. How Diaw, Brown Cow? Boris Diaw played excellent defense against Blake Griffin. Boris Diaw played excellent defense against Serge Ibaka, for a while. But Game 3 provided some exploitation of the things that made Diaw a bad contract in Charlotte. He couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, he was throwing passes into steal lanes, he was off his element and was outrun. The Spurs may turn to DeJuan Blair in Game 4, after he played well at the end of Game 3 and may be a better matchup. The passing is really crucial. If Diaw isn’t creating perimeter rotations out of the post, his value on the floor becomes limited. How the Spurs react will be interesting given Popovich’s trust in veterans.

5. The Best Offense: Is a good defense for OKC. In Games 1 and 2, Scott Brooks tried to score with the red-hot Spurs. In Game 3, he deployed defensive lineups and got the desired result. Yes, Thabo Sefolosha won’t score that many again, but with Danny Green struggling, he doesn’t really need to. The Thunder’s offense has been very consistent in this series, and compared to last year. The Thunder are going to get points. It’s whether they can slow down the awesome power of the Spurs that will determine who wins the west. You could honestly say a bowl of salad on Sunday could alter players’ careers in this game. The Spurs know they have to stop OKC’s transition attack. The Thunder have to prevent open looks, something no one has been able to do in a long, long while.

Latest Posts
  1. Spurs’ Matt Bonner brings the championship trophy home to New Hampshire (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    Bonner is one of a few Spurs teammates taking the trophy on tour this summer.

  2. Sixers sign another injured player, agree to deal with Pierre Jackson

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Pierre Jackson AP

    Sixers continue their plan of seeking out delayed gratification.

  3. Agency that reps Ray Allen says reports he intends to play for Cavaliers are ‘unfounded,’ no decision has been made

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Miami Heat's Allen and James slap hands during the second half of Game 4 of their NBA first round playoff series in Milwaukee Reuters

    Despite reports that Allen was on the verge of signing with Cleveland, nothing has been decided just yet.

  4. Blake Griffin withdraws from USA Basketball this summer

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:44 PM EDT

    Blake Griffin Getty Images

    Blake Griffin joins Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge as players who are passing on Team USA this summer.

  5. Thursday And-1 links: All-Star logos, Pharrell Williams, Carmelo Anthony as anchor on Knicks

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT

    2015 All-Star logo

    Plus there is an image of Dwyane Wade playing hoops with a dolphin.

  6. Report: John Wall added to roster for Team USA training camp in Las Vegas

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT

    John Wall, LeBron James

    Team USA is bringing Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and John Wall to camp. And that’s just at the point guard spot.

  7. Michael Jordan’s signed 1997-98 $33 million contract up for auction

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:02 PM EDT

    Michael Jordan AP

    It’s the largest single-year contract in NBA history.

  8. Cavaliers officially sign Andrew Wiggins, putting 30-day hold on him being traded

    Jul 24, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    It’s another 30 days Minnesota can try to leverage a better deal out of Chicago, Golden State and anyone else who wants Kevin Love.

  9. Is Paul George changing numbers?

    Jul 24, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game 5 Getty Images

    His new nickname could be PG-13.

  10. Chandler Parsons: Rockets told me to pursue big contract, they’d match

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

    Chandler Parsons Chandler Parsons

    Houston obviously didn’t match, allowing Parsons to sign with Mavericks

  11. Lakers deny rumor they are waiting around for Doc Rivers to be coach

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:19 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Do you think Jim Buss is going to give up his job, step aside for Rivers and put someone in over long-time trusted Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak? Really?

  12. Nuggets sign former ACC Player of the Year Erick Green

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Nick Covington, Erick Green Nick Covington, Erick Green

    Green, drafted No. 46 in 2013, spent a year overseas

  13. Josh Huestis’ agent says D-League scheme arranged before NBA draft

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    Josh Huestis Josh Huestis

    Huestis would have accepted arrangement only with Thunder or Spurs, but will the NBA or players union allow it?

  14. Isaiah Thomas: ‘I felt very disrespected’ by Kings

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    Isaiah Thomas, Michael Malone Isaiah Thomas, Michael Malone

    Sacramento’s search for a starting-caliber point guard let the one already there leave for Suns

Featured video

Stephenson goes elsewhere for his future
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Love (3973)
  2. L. James (3359)
  3. R. Allen (3257)
  4. A. Wiggins (3139)
  5. K. Bryant (2674)
  1. E. Bledsoe (2620)
  2. D. Rose (2563)
  3. G. Rice Jr. (2207)
  4. K. Marshall (2135)
  5. J. Nelson (2124)