The Thunder will face off against the Spurs on Monday night at 8:30 p.m. in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. But before we dive into Game 2, let's take a look back at Game 1, a 124-92 Spurs win that wasn't as close as the score indicates:
But seriously, the Thunder took the floor and appeared to have no idea that LaMarcus Aldridge likes shooting 18-foot jumpers or that Danny Green likes shooting 3s. Oklahoma City had no clue how to defend a pick-and-roll, no idea how to rotate and didn't seem interested in getting back on defense on many occasions.
San Antonio, meanwhile, put on a clinic. I should say another clinic, because the Spurs did win 40 of 41 homes games this season. San Antonio's dissection of the Thunder defense was nothing short of surgical.
Spurs’ defense is alien technology.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 1, 2016
San Antonio shot 18-of-22 in the first quarter, half of them coming on uncontested jumpers. The Thunder couldn't stop a nosebleed.
All due respect to the Spurs, who’ve been great, but OKC’s defense this half is dreadful.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) May 1, 2016
Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka got constantly toasted on pick-and-roll action which led to Aldridge's pick-and-pop success. Tony Parker's constant penetration (12 assists) demanded help from OKC's bigs, which ended up resulting in someone getting a wide-open shot due to poor defensive rotations.
To be fair, it's almost impossible to effectively rotate against the Spurs' offense. Not only do they have extremely intelligent players who are willing to make the extra pass, they have five threats on the floor at all times. San Antonio doesn't run guys like Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters or Kyle Singler out there. If they did, OKC could abandon that player and live with the result. Instead, leave a guy like Green or Aldridge and you're asking to get toasted.
In Game 1, Aldridge scored 38 points on 18-of-23, Kawhi Leonard scored 25 on 10-of-13 (in just 22 minutes!) and Green finished with 18 on 6-of-7 (5-of-6 from deep). In fact, if you take away Kevin Martin's 1-of-7 performance in mop-up time, San Antonio shot 65 percent from the floor in Game 1.
Spurs shot chart green like Earth Day pic.twitter.com/ND396gjuHP— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 1, 2016
On the other side of the ball, San Antonio's defense came in with a great game plan against OKC's superstar duo. Leonard and Green, the NBA's top defensive duo, suffocated Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook throughout the night. The Spurs' tandem held KD and Russ to a combined 30 points on 11-of-34 shooting. San Antonio's plan was to wall off the basket and it worked to perfection.
The Spurs seemed content to let Roberson, Waiters, Singler, Cam Payne, Randy Foye, or whomever else OKC threw out there hoist up jumpers. They even seemed OK leaving Ibaka open. As a result, Ibaka was OKC's best offensive player in Game 1, scoring 19 on 8-of-15 shooting. San Antonio was pretty much fine with anything as long as Durant, Westbrook, Adams and Enes Kanter were not allowed to get to the hole.
So with all these problems, is there anything that the Thunder can do to fight back? If there is, it's gonna have to start with effort.
"We gotta come out with a little more intensity on both sides of the floor," Westbrook said after Game 1. "A little more sense of urgency."
Oklahoma City will hope that the Spurs take their foot off the gas a bit after such an easy Game 1 win. Combine that with an increase in the Thunder's intensity and it could be enough for OKC to sneak up and steal one. The Thunder will also need to figure something out on defense, specifically dealing with the Leonard/Aldridge pick-and-roll.
"Our defense in the pick-and-roll has got to be a lot better," Roberson said. "Aldridge got hot early and kinda set the tone for the rest of the game. We didn't really make an adjustment after that."
But if you're betting on the Spurs getting full of themselves and losing focus, don't.
The change is going to have to come from the Thunder's side. Whatever that is, it needs to begin on Monday night. Even if it doesn't result in a win, the Thunder need to figure something out before the Spurs run away and hide.