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Thunder-Spurs Game 6: Spurs know what to do, but it may not matter

Jun 6, 2012, 4:52 PM EDT

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

It’s not that the Spurs don’t know what they have to do to win — this is a smart, veteran team with the best coach in the land. Intellectually, they know what they need to do.

But there comes a point where athleticism trumps that plan, and for three games in a row now the Thunder have had that advantage. It’s not that simple — the Thunder also have executed well enough, got their role players to step up and used the long arms of Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka to disrupt what the Spurs are doing. But the more athletic team is winning this series because of their advantage.

San Antonio will figure out how to deal with it Wednesday night, on the road, or they will be golfing on Thursday. Well, except for Gregg Popovich, he’ll go back to drinking fine wine.

Popovich has to come up with a scheme — and the Spurs have to execute — a game plan that gets Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili into the paint breaking down the Thunder defense. Ever since the Thunder started trapping the ball handler off the pick in Game 3 (and not letting them reuse that pick) the Spurs have struggled to score efficiently enough to win. San Antonio hasn’t made the Thunder pay with the pick-and-pop, their ball movement has been stagnated, and then it becomes a matter of isolations.

Part of that is Duncan himself — he cannot hesitate to shoot on the pick-and-pop. Same is true for the Spurs role players, who seem to hesitate before taking their jumpers against the Thunder, and that give’s OKC’s long athletes time to recover.

And with all that the Spurs still score. They put 103 points (104 points per 100 possessions pace) in Game 5. That would be the seventh best in the NBA last season, but is 4.5 points per 100 worse than what they did in the regular season.

The Spurs have to score and score big because they cannot stop the Thunder. San Antonio can play better defense on the pick-and-roll, they can slow the Thunder, but they have nobody who can stop Kevin Durant, they are not able to shut off Russell Westbrook. With Ibaka knocking down midrange jumpers and James Harden doing his thing the Spurs are not going to clamp down on the Thunder like they did the Clippers.

If San Antonio is going to push this to a Game 7 they will do it with their offense.

I just don’t know if they can because we’ve seen such growth from the Thunder these playoffs. They make their mistakes, but their ball movement is better, their effort level consistently higher — they are playing like we expect a veteran contender to do. They have been amazing.

And at home, in front of that crowd, they will be incredibly difficult to beat.

  1. spellingcopfather - Jun 6, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    We knew KD would score alot b4 the playoff even started, its the other players that are hurting the spurs, i say guard everyone else a little harder and just let KD do him just try to make him use up the whole 24 second shot clock to do so, i know its easy to speak it from behind the computer but its time to try something new tonight, Good Luck & Go Spurs!!!

    • connaniii - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:09 PM

      Did you know Westbrook finished fifth in scoring in the whole league? did you also know that Harden is the top scorer among 6th men in the league?

  2. brucster - Jun 6, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    Too many missed opportunities… Nobody around the basket, a Spur tries for a 3 , Clank, rebound Thunder, and this happened over and over…How about a layup, or dunk it would have been 2 points instead of nothing.

  3. Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 6, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Kurt obviously has not watched the ECF if he believes athleticism trumps knowing what to do. Closing the ends of games (Boston knowing what they want to do, Miami NEVER seeming to know) is another issue. The Thunder lucked out in Game 5, because Russ was definitely screwing the final minutes away. If the Spurs continue what they were doing to him in the 4th quarter EARLY in the game and take advantage (too many missed shots early and blown opportunities to seize the game, despite the refs cheating for them early), they’ll be able to pull it out.

    And they’ll close it out at home. If OKC had home court, I’d truly believe that this series would be over tonight.

    • bigmeechy74 - Jun 6, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      The refs cheating for which team? And i’m not sure about the Thunder getting “lucky” game 5. They were clearly the better team that night. I think the Thunder will probably blow it tonight though.

  4. lyndseymarieee - Jun 6, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    The roof at Chesapeake Arena is going to get blown off due to the noise level. It’ll be so loud in there the Spurs won’t be able to think straight.

  5. bknowledge - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    When OKC goes “small’, Spurs could try to counter “big”:
    Ibaka Blair
    Durant Duncan
    Sepholosha Diaw
    Hardin Ginobili
    Westbrook Parker

    With this line-up, they could let Blair stick with Ibaka and play a four man zone with the rest of the team…try to force Sepholosha to beat them…on offense they could pick and roll with whichever of their bigs is covered by a small….just a thought…
    I have really enjoyed watching this well played (and well officiated) series.
    Both teams are completely deserving.
    Inspired play.
    Durant was my pick for MVP.
    Thunder defense has been very impressive- so much effort.

  6. thekingdave - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    @lyndseymarieee

    Yes because the 4 time champion Spurs whose core has experienced a decade plus of playoff runs together and played in rowdy playoff environments in LA, Dallas, Detroit etc. will step into OKC and be completely flabbergasted and surprised by a “rowdy” playoff crowd.

  7. pistolpete0903 - Jun 6, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    It is all about defense for SA. They are pretty much scoring at the same clip as in previous games.
    The difference has obvously been the spectacular play of KD over the last 3 games and some clutch shot making by Harden. The key would be to trap KD and Harden and make them passers. If Westbrook or Ibaka (we know Ibaka was perfect in game 3) beats, then live with it.

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