Game 3 Preview: Thunder Must Win Rebounding Battle


Saturday, May 21st 2016, 4:55 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger


After a seemingly endless three-day break between games, the Thunder and Warriors will resume their Western Conference Finals series with a Game 3 matchup on Sunday night at 7 p.m. It will be the first game of the series played in Oklahoma City, and the Thunder will be looking to capitalize on the opportunity at home.

Here are a few things of note heading into Game 3:

Thunder MUST win rebounding battle

Despite being underdogs, the Thunder was able to take care of the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs by completely dominating the boards. OKC  out-rebounded San Antonio 272-to-227 throughout the six-game series, and averaged nearly eight more rebounds per contest than the Spurs.

That rebounding advantage carried over to the Thunder’s Game 1 win over the Warriors, where OKC grabbed 62 boards compared to 55 by the Warriors, but Golden State was able to flip the script in their Game 2 win. Using a meatier post lineup with big bodies such as Anderson Varejao, Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights, Golden State won the rebounding battle by nine.

“The reality is they were playing tougher than us. They were tougher, they were more aggressive than us,” Serge Ibaka said. “That’s something you can’t always watch on film and can’t always change. It’s mentally. I think it’s something we have to do next game.”

The Thunder has struggled mightily when trying to play the Warriors’ brand of “small ball”, therefore it appears playing a bigger lineup is the only way to threaten Golden State. All of that is great when it’s working out, but if Ibaka, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter aren’t winning the battle for rebounds, things could go south quickly seeing the bigger OKC lineup has trouble defending a much quicker Warriors’ lineup.

When Kanter has been on the court, the Warriors have been well aware of the his defensive woes and have done everything possible to expose the big man. Whoever Kanter is guarding will normally become the screener for Steph Curry on the perimeter, which leaves Kanter to switch on one of the quickest guards in the league. Therefore if Kanter is going to prove his worth in this series, he must be gobbling up rebounds on both ends of the floor to make up for his defensive lapses.

Durant has to limit turnovers

Kevin Durant is one of the best players on the entire planet, which makes his inexplicable turnovers the most head scratching dilemma of this series. After averaging 3.5 per game during the regular season, Durant threw away the ball eight times in Game 2, and totaled five turnovers in Game 1 with four coming in the first half.

Durant is the focal point of the Thunder’s offense, which means he has the ball in his hands a large portion of the time and gives him somewhat of an excuse for a couple of the turnovers. But eight in a crucial Western Conference Finals’ game is unacceptable for a superstar of his caliber.

“Sometimes I just got to be patient out there and wait for my shots to come to me instead of trying to force it in there sometimes,” Durant said after Friday’s practice. “I just got to be strong with the ball and stop making those one-hand passes I’ve been making. Just get back to the fundamentals of passing the basketball. I’ll figure it out, it’s always been that way for me. Teams play the same way since I’ve been in the league so I’ll just figure it out.”

Durant is the type of player who tends to find a solution to his problem, and based on Donovan’s game-to-game adjustments throughout rounds 1 and 2, there’s reason to be optimistic Durant will cut back on the turnovers.

Draymond being Draymond

Warriors’ all-star forward Draymond Green is one of the most vocal players in the entire NBA, and there’s no surprise he and Thunder center Steven Adams already aren’t getting along. After draining a 3-pointer in the first half in Game 2, Green appeared to talk smack in Adams’ face as the two trotted back down the court. Green also did the same thing after hitting a money ball over Enes Kanter later in the half.

“I think he’s peaked with annoyingness,” Adams said of Green after Friday’s practice.

Adams also talked about he can hear Green talking when he’s on the bench, but doesn’t hear him when he’s (Adams) in the game.

There was also a play later in the game where Green drove for layup, but led with his knee out in front, which collided with Adams’ groin area and kept the big man on the ground for a bit. Instead of making it a big deal, Adams downplayed his ailment like usual.

“I’m still a man, so that’s all that matters,” Adams said.

Quotable:

Durant on Curry diving into the front row of the stands to save a ball in Game 2: “He did a good job protecting himself, I thought he didn’t have to jump over, I thought he could’ve just leaned into the fans in the front row but, you know, it looks good when you jump over, I understand that.”

That rebounding advantage carried over to the Thunder’s Game 1 win over the Warriors, where OKC grabbed 62 boards compared to 55 by the Warriors, but Golden State was able to flip the script in their Game 2 win. Using a meatier post lineup with big bodies such as Anderson Varejao, Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights, Golden State won the rebounding battle by nine.

“The reality is they were playing tougher than us. They were tougher, they were more aggressive than us,” Serge Ibaka said. “That’s something you can’t always watch on film and can’t always change. It’s mentally. I think it’s something we have to do next game.”

Serge: "Of course we take it personal. It makes us feel like we're soft"

— News 9 Sports (@News9Sport) May 21, 2016

The Thunder has struggled mightily when trying to play the Warriors’ brand of “small ball”, therefore it appears playing a bigger lineup is the only way to threaten Golden State. All of that is great when it’s working out, but if Ibaka, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter aren’t winning the battle for rebounds, things could go south quickly seeing the bigger OKC lineup has trouble defending a much quicker Warriors’ lineup.

When Kanter has been on the court, the Warriors have been well aware of the his defensive woes and have done everything possible to expose the big man. Whoever Kanter is guarding will normally become the screener for Steph Curry on the perimeter, which leaves Kanter to switch on one of the quickest guards in the league. Therefore if Kanter is going to prove his worth in this series, he must be gobbling up rebounds on both ends of the floor to make up for his defensive lapses.

Durant has to limit turnovers

Kevin Durant is one of the best players on the entire planet, which makes his inexplicable turnovers the most head scratching dilemma of this series. After averaging 3.5 per game during the regular season, Durant threw away the ball eight times in Game 2, and totaled five turnovers in Game 1 with four coming in the first half.

Durant is the focal point of the Thunder’s offense, which means he has the ball in his hands a large portion of the time and gives him somewhat of an excuse for a couple of the turnovers. But eight in a crucial Western Conference Finals’ game is unacceptable for a superstar of his caliber.

“Sometimes I just got to be patient out there and wait for my shots to come to me instead of trying to force it in there sometimes,” Durant said after Friday’s practice. “I just got to be strong with the ball and stop making those one-hand passes I’ve been making. Just get back to the fundamentals of passing the basketball. I’ll figure it out, it’s always been that way for me. Teams play the same way since I’ve been in the league so I’ll just figure it out.”

Durant is the type of player who tends to find a solution to his problem, and based on Donovan’s game-to-game adjustments throughout rounds 1 and 2, there’s reason to be optimistic Durant will cut back on the turnovers.

Draymond being Draymond

Warriors’ all-star forward Draymond Green is one of the most vocal players in the entire NBA, and there’s no surprise he and Thunder center Steven Adams already aren’t getting along. After draining a 3-pointer in the first half in Game 2, Green appeared to talk smack in Adams’ face as the two trotted back down the court. Green also did the same thing after hitting a money ball over Enes Kanter later in the half.

Steven Adams getting in some work at today's Thunder practice #News9Thunder pic.twitter.com/mQyHvHvXec

— News 9 Sports (@News9Sport) May 21, 2016

“I think he’s peaked with annoyingness,” Adams said of Green after Friday’s practice.

Adams also talked about he can hear Green talking when he’s on the bench, but doesn’t hear him when he’s (Adams) in the game.

There was also a play later in the game where Green drove for layup, but led with his knee out in front, which collided with Adams’ groin area and kept the big man on the ground for a bit. Instead of making it a big deal, Adams downplayed his ailment like usual.

“I’m still a man, so that’s all that matters,” Adams said.

Quotable:

Durant on Curry diving into the front row of the stands to save a ball in Game 2: “He did a good job protecting himself, I thought he didn’t have to jump over, I thought he could’ve just leaned into the fans in the front row but, you know, it looks good when you jump over, I understand that.”

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After a seemingly endless three-day break between games, the Thunder and Warriors will resume their Western Conference Finals series with a Game 3 matchup on Sunday night at 7.

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