Jun 2, 2012, 11:00 AM EST
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.
Dec 11, 2013, 7:23 PM EST
We told you this was coming and now a real has been reached: D.J. Augustin is about to be a Chicago Bulls. Augustin cleared waivers on Wednesday and has reached a deal as a free agent with Chicago, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Augustin needs to pass a physical with the Bulls on Thursday.…
Dec 11, 2013, 6:55 PM EST
We told you already Justin Timberlake was in Indianapolis last night, sitting courtside to watch the Pacers beat the Heat then playing a little H-O-R-S-E with Paul George. As an in-arena promotion, the Pacers have a bit where Danny Granger sings a long with a song in his headphones — and he can’t sing —…
Dec 11, 2013, 5:43 PM EST
Omer Asik wants to get traded. He’s said that since this summer, but it hasn’t happened as Rockets GM Daryl Morey isn’t going to move until he thinks he has a good deal. That’s not fast enough for Asik, who made a move and changed agents to one known for helping guys get moved. So…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:37 PM EST
In the latest edition of PBT Extra, Kay Adams asks about the Pacers win over the Heat Tuesday — I don’t read much into any regular season meeting between these games. That said, I still stand by my pick of the Pacers to win the NBA title this year. Then we shift our focus to…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:12 PM EST
Dwight Howard improved after after the All-Star break last season – before All-Star break: 16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game; after All-Star break: 18.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game – and the reason is no secret: His back got healthier. But that wasn’t the only factor. Howard told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com he…
Dec 11, 2013, 3:39 PM EST
The Charlotte Bobcats’ outlook is changing. When they signed Al Jefferson this summer, the theory was they would rather be pedestrianly bad rather than historically bad – even if that meant lower lottery odds. I argued Charlotte should go all-in to be totally bad for another season, and that pulling in itself in opposite directions…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:36 PM EST
The Warriors need big-man depth. Festus Ezeli has been out all season. Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green are banged up. Marreese Speights can’t gain Mark Jackson’s trust. Andre Iguodala is injured, too, and although he mostly plays on the wing, his absence the number of minutes he and Harrison Barnes can soak up as a…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
From the frivolous lawsuit file here at PBT… A Clippers fan is suing he team for $5 million claiming they are spamming his phone with unwanted texts. TMZ got ahold of the lawsuit and has some details. The guy behind the lawsuit is Ari Friedman — who claims he went to a game at Staples…
Dec 11, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
In case you needed a good laugh today — Jason Kidd says he is reading the “reports” that reassigned assistant coach Lawrence Frank is writing. That’s what he told the New York Post. “I’ve been reading the reports [Frank is filing], and that’s as far as it’s going.” Riiiight. Now, if it the reports read…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:41 PM EST
That’s bloody brilliant. It’s my new favorite NBA Christmas video. The Bulls had kept the band together to make one more run at a title with Derrick Rose leading them, but when Rose went down that dream was dashed and it was time to talk retooling the roster. You can bet Luol Deng will be…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:08 PM EST
Boston fans felt jilted by Doc Rivers — they thought he would stay with them through the pain of rebuilding, instead he took off for the hot young thing in Los Angeles. Outside Boston few blamed him, in Boston fans felt dumped. Rivers kept saying it was mutual, Celtics fans were having none of it.…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:44 AM EST
.@Paul_George24 and @jtimberlake playing H-O-R-S-E now. Notice coach Vogel and Burke watching in the corner. http://t.co/fThtkA6AXb— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 11, 2013 If you watched the Pacers come-from-behind win over the Heat Tuesday night you probably saw the shots of Justin Timberlake in the crowd. Somehow he was able to swing court side seats, hope…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:49 AM EST
Kyrie Irving just hasn’t been himself this season — his shot has been off and with that the entire Cavaliers offense has been easier to defend. But nothing can help a guy out of a slump like facing the Knicks “defense.” Irving was able to get the rim but the key is he finished —…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:04 AM EST
Paul Pierce returned to the Nets lineup on Tuesday after missing the last four games with a broken bone in his hand. But he wasn’t in his usual spot in the team’s starting lineup. Facing his former Boston Celtics, Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his storied career. And his head…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:31 AM EST
Indiana got the win over Miami on Tuesday, in a game the Pacers talked up a lot more beforehand than the defending champs cared to in advance of an early-December contest. LeBron James brought the intensity early by shutting down Paul George for the game’s first 12 minutes, and scored his first basket of the…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
Kobe Bryant is back on the court for the Lakers — and with a huge contract that will keep him the highest paid player in the NBA for two more seasons after this one. In the latest edition of the PBT podcast myself and Eyton Shander of NBC Sports Radio welcome in Kevin Ding of…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
After watching two of the league’s best starting lineups duke it out in Indiana, let’s check in on the best and worst lineups around the league so far this season. Best Net Efficiency Rating (minimum 150 minutes) Houston: Patrick Beverley-James Harden-Chandler Parsons-Terrence Jones-Dwight Howard Net efficiency is the difference between a team’s offensive rating and…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:51 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while freaking out that there are now cockroaches which can survive a freezing winter just fine… Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers. He looked better. Kobe was more fluid and in part because (as he noted after the…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:24 AM EST
Kobe Bryant can dunk again. It’s not going to be remembered as one of his most thunderous throw downs, but he got around P.J. Tucker with the spin, got to the rim, took off with both feet and dunked. It’s about steps with Kobe on his return. His turnovers were down, he got a dunk…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:59 PM EST
Amir Johnson has had a couple strong games — 32 points against the Lakers Sunday, then another 19 points and 9 boards against the Spurs Tuesday. Plus this awesome block of Kawhi Leonard at the rim. Leonard is athletic, has a freakish wingspan and goes up strong. Johnson was stronger. That is what rim protection…
- Report: D.J. Augustin reaches deal with Chicago Bulls 0
- PBT Extra: Talking Pacers win over Heat; Aldridge vs. Howard showdown 5
- Kidd says he is reading Frank’s “reports” as details of Nets coaching mess come public 9
- The Extra Pass: The league’s leading lineups; plus Tuesday’s recaps 9
- Tuesday night NBA Grades: Kobe plays pretty well, Suns’ backcourt plays better 11