Skip to content

Thunder’s long, athletic defense has Spurs’ beautiful offense looking ugly

May 28, 2014, 1:32 AM EDT

Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili

When the San Antonio offense is clicking, they play the beautiful game. The extra pass to the open man, the movement off the ball, the trust, the smart cuts, the open shots that fall. We saw that in opening two games of the Western Conference Finals.

However, for the last two games Oklahoma City has blown that up and made the Spurs offense look ugly.

The length, the athleticism, the physicality of Oklahoma City just blows up what the Spurs want to do because of how fast Thunder players can recover.

“When we use our athleticism, use our size, use our strength, we are in a good position,” Russell Westbrook said in his post game press conference.

“We used our length and athleticism to disrupt their flow,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks added.

It was ugly Tuesday night for San Antonio in a blowout Game 4 loss that evened the series.

The Spurs shot 39.8 percent in Game 4, with an offensive rating of 97.2 points per 100 possessions (more than 14 off their playoff average coming into the game). The Thunder’s length led them to contest 47.6 percent of the Spurs shot attempts (well above the Thunder’s season average) and San Antonio shot just 30 percent on those contested. Tim Duncan was 1-of-7 on contested shots. That doesn’t even take into account the turnovers and blocked shots, many of which became fast break points the other way for the Thunder (OKC had 21 fast break points to zero for the Spurs). The Spurs are used to whipping the ball around the perimeter, but the Thunder defenders (knowing Serge Ibaka is behind them to clean up mistakes) can pressure those passes and make them less crisp and accurate (if not outright get a steal).

When the Spurs would conncect on the extra pass but you could see them hesitate as they checked where Ibaka was standing before they shot.

San Antonio actually got off to a quick start in Game 4, an 8-0 lead, Tony Parker looked sharp  and attacking. However then but the Spurs got away from what worked if you ask coach Gregg Popovich (Parker did stop attacking by the middle of the second quarter).

“We didn’t play smart on a consistent basis,” Popovich said in his post game press conference broadcast on NBA TV. “All of a sudden we were going to see if Serge (Ibaka) could block a shot or something. I thought about passing a picture out on the bench so they’d know who Serge was. Really unwise basketball all of a sudden. Rather than hitting open people we started attacking the rim unwisely and that turns into blocked shots and turnovers.

“You got to play smarter against such great athletes,” he continued. “They’re talented, obviously, but their athleticism and length gives you a smaller margin for error and you better be smart the way you play. And you can’t afford to screw that up as many times as we did.

“And I think we have to play harder. I think they’re playing more physically than we are, they are getting more 50/50 balls, and playing with more determination than we have the last two games.”

The Spurs likely will do those things once they get home.

But the Oklahoma City won four straight over San Antonio in the 2012 in the Western Conference Finals and six of eight since then because the Spurs ball movement can’t outrun the length and athleticism of the Thunder defense. It has changed completely since Serge Ibaka re-entered the series.

And when the Thunder walk off the plane in San Antonio, they are still going to be long and athletic. That could be real trouble for the Spurs.

Latest Posts
  1. 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?

  2. 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

  3. Report: Manu Ginobili ‘optimistic’ about playing in World Cup despite Spurs’ wishes

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    Manu Ginobili Manu Ginobili

    San Antonio guard says he won’t represent Argentina if he still feels pain

  4. Anthony Bennett breathing much easier after having tonsils out

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    The good news, he did not eat all the ice cream he wanted during his recovery from a tonsillectomy.

  5. James Harden: “Dwight and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets. The rest of the guys are role players.”

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Rockets players certainly are giving Parsons plenty of bulletin board material.

  6. Testimony ends in Sterling probate trial, closing arguments next week

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT

    Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling

    We know how this movie is going to end, Donald Sterling will lose the Clippers, we just don’t know how we will get there yet.

  7. Rockets signing draft picks Clint Capela, Nick Johnson

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Houston’s other second rounder, Alessandro Gentile, to remain in Europe

  8. Report: Ballmer’s $2 billion Clippers offer nearly double what Bank of America valued team at

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:40 PM EDT

    Steve Ballmer Steve Ballmer

    If you really want something and you can afford it, why not? But Ballmer overpaid big for the Clips.

  9. Report: Celtics moving on from Kevin Love pursuit

    Jul 23, 2014, 7:49 PM EDT

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Does this mean Boston will trade Rajon Rondo?

  10. Report: Ray Allen to get MRI on knees then decide future plans

    Jul 23, 2014, 5:38 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Practice Day And Media Availability Getty Images

    If Kevin Love goes to Cleveland does that impact Ray Allen’s decision?

  11. Summer League in Las Vegas sets records for attendance, viewership

    Jul 23, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT

    Wizards Warriors Basketball AP

    Numbers show a substantial increase in popularity.

  12. Dante Exum knows his leap from high school games to Summer League was not smooth

    Jul 23, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    Dante Exum AP

    Exum is a project but he also could be the point guard of the future in Utah.

  13. Dwyane Wade says he was asked why he flops by a kid at his basketball camp (VIDEO)

    Jul 23, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    Dwyane Wade Dwyane Wade

    “I was about to get him kicked out of the camp,” Wade joked.

  14. Report: Jameer Nelson near $2.7 million deal to join Dallas Mavericks

    Jul 23, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics, Game 6 Getty Images

    Good pickup to add some depth at the point, something Dallas needed unless you’re expecting a monster bounce-back season for Raymond Felton.

  15. Raymond Felton pleads guilty on gun charges, will avoid jail

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Felton orange jersey Getty Images

    He was given community services, which he can complete in Dallas where he was traded.

Featured video

Stephenson goes elsewhere for his future
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Love (4479)
  2. A. Wiggins (3396)
  3. L. James (3389)
  4. R. Allen (3154)
  5. E. Bledsoe (2957)
  1. K. Bryant (2825)
  2. D. Rose (2728)
  3. L. Stephenson (2389)
  4. C. Boozer (2379)
  5. K. Marshall (2365)