May 28, 2014, 12:21 AM EST
In the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs demolished the Thunder with precision execution on the offensive end of the floor, and enough defense against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to force them into low-efficiency performances.
Serge Ibaka returned in Game 3, and so did Oklahoma City’s collective swagger. But in Game 4, it was Durant and especially Westbrook who took control, and ensured the Thunder would even the series at two games apiece.
Behind an incredible 40 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals, Westbrook produced a statistical line matched only by Michael Jordan over the past 30 years in leading OKC to a 105-92 victory that wasn’t at all that close.
“Russell’s defensive toughness really set the tone in this game I thought,” said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks afterward. And as monstrous as Westbrook was offensively — playing efficiently and under control, while distributing to his teammates at the same time — his defensive intensity was what really made the biggest difference.
The Thunder have beaten the Spurs seven straight times with Ibaka in the lineup, and while he was fine in this one with nine points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, this game was about Westbrook on both ends of the floor, and Durant picking his spots.
This season’s MVP wasn’t exactly invisible in finishing with 31 points, and did most of his damage in the second quarter where he scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting in just nine minutes of action. But Westbrook was everywhere, disrupting the Spurs offense by getting into the passing lanes and then making largely smart decisions offensively.
There’s a “let Westbrook be Westbrook” mantra chanted by his supporters, which essentially means that his frenetic style of play is bound to produce some frustrating sequences, and that you need to accept the good with the bad in order to truly embrace the Thunder guard’s brilliance.
But that’s utter nonsense.
When Westbrook is just playing with speed and without thinking, his shot selection is destructive more than it is helpful. He showed how his energy can be properly utilized in this one, however, and if the Thunder can somehow get these types of performances out of him consistently — not in terms of the raw numbers, but in terms of the defensive effort and the efficiency — they will be very difficult to stop.
San Antonio trailed by as many as 27 points in the third quarter, before the bench was emptied and the reserves were left to clean up the mess. The likes of Boris Diaw, Corey Joseph and Matt Bonner made enough of a run to force the Thunder to play their starters to close things out, but the Spurs were never close enough to warrant putting the starters back in.
That might bode well for Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili heading into Game 5, but the rest will only help so much. San Antonio needs to figure out a way to slow the Thunder down enough to turn around a 21-0 deficit in fast break points that the team faced in this one, while reverting back to the style of play that enabled the Spurs to get out to the 2-0 lead in the series that has now completely vanished.
Dec 17, 2014, 4:03 PM EST
The Kings roster is poorly suited right now for the style the owner wants to play.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:12 PM EST
Blazers fans will get to see more Chris Kaman.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Portland also reportedly tried to trade for Monroe before he signed the one-year qualifying offer to stay in Detroit.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:50 PM EST
Former Baylor University center was expected to be drafted, but was diagnosed with a disease that prematurely ended his chances of playing in the NBA.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:10 PM EST
Wade has a reputation of being a flopper, and appeared to exaggerate the contact from the official.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
He pities ‘Melo because a real competitor is suffering through a lot of losing.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:50 AM EST
Love is suffering from the dreaded flu-like symptoms.
Warriors’ Andre Iguodala hilariously mocks referee for not calling a blatant travel, picks up technical foul (VIDEO)
Dec 17, 2014, 11:10 AM EST
Iggy does the Travel Dance.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Peja was a three-time All-Star, and a member of the only good team Sacramento has had in its franchise history.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:50 AM EST
Durant joins Paul George as players who renounce the nonsensical report that emerged earlier in the season.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:09 AM EST
Prior relationships Jackson has with Kings brass may make this an obvious choice for Sacramento as the team searches for its next head coach.
Dec 17, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
That sound you just heard was the collective voice of people in Sacramento yelling “nooooooooo.”
Dec 17, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
He who hesitates gets dunked on.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:02 AM EST
Rough night for the Bucks, and they didn’t even play.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:45 AM EST
As always, he made it look easy.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:15 AM EST
Miller, known for his high-IQ game, gets hung on the rim.
Dec 16, 2014, 11:13 PM EST
Parker was the leading Rookie of the Year candidate.
Dec 16, 2014, 10:56 PM EST
Golden State is still 21-3 on the season, and has help on the way.
Dec 16, 2014, 10:00 PM EST
Johnson is trying to make it back to the NBA, but incidents like this won’t help his cause.
Dec 16, 2014, 9:10 PM EST
First rain delay in NBA history?
- Tyson Chandler says he feels sorry for Carmelo Anthony 13
- Kevin Durant on idea stars wouldn’t want to play with Kobe Bryant: ‘That’s bulls—‘ 27
- PBT’s Tuesday Night NBA Winners/Losers: Grizzlies grind ends Warriors streak 9
- It’s official: Jabari Parker out for the season with torn ACL 20
- Grizzlies snap Warriors’ 16-game winning streak 4
- Report: Chris Mullin doesn’t want to jump in mid-season to coach Kings 3
- Shane Larkin, a second thought as Knicks chase star free agents, trying to find his own way 1