Thunder vs. Spurs Game 5: Can OKC Bring Same Defense?


Tuesday, May 10th 2016, 7:37 am
By: News 9


Kevin Durant singlehandedly saved the Thunder’s season on Sunday night when he dropped 41 points on the best defensive team in the league and led the Thunder to a series-tying victory.

Technically, all Oklahoma City’s 111-97 win over the Spurs did was tie the series at 2-2, but it felt like a lot more than that. Durant found assassin mode for the first time all series, OKC won without a scoring explosion from Russell Westbrook, and perhaps most importantly, the Thunder defense seems to have figured out how to prevent the Spurs from raining 3s.

It finally feels like OKC has a real shot at this thing.

We’ll start with KD. Scoring 41 points on only 25 shots is hard against any professional team, but when that performance comes against the NBA’s top defense and two of the NBA’s top wing defenders (Kawhi Leonard & Danny Green) it makes it significantly more impressive.

The Thunder need to win two of the next three to advance and Durant will likely need at least one more eruption in that span to give his team a great shot. The most encouraging part of Durant’s performance in Game 4 was that most of the shots were well-defended. It’s not like the Spurs just dogged it and will be able to make a quick adjustment. Durant used his length to bust jumper after jumper in the faces of Leonard and Green. He was downright unstoppable.

Let’s shift to Westbrook. The Thunder’s mercurial guard had an up-and-down Game 4, scoring just 14 points on 18 shots yet dishing out 15 assists to just three turnovers. Russ responded from Game 3 when he took 31 shots, admitting afterward that he needed to get his teammates more involved.

He did just that on Sunday night, locating Steven Adams early and often. Adams finished with 16 points on just eight shots, with every bucket coming on a close-to-rim finish. If Westbrook continues to remain patient, more Thunder possessions moving forward can end in Adams dunks instead of Russ jumpers.

The biggest stunner of the night, however, was Oklahoma City’s apparent mastery of how to limit that mighty Spurs offense. San Antonio is notorious for finding open 3s off of ball rotation, often times as a result of its opponent over-helping. The Thunder refused to help, relying on each individual to defend his man, and it worked.

This defensive strategy has it faults, as does any. LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and pretty much anyone else got open looks from 17 feet all night long, but OKC will live with that. What it can’t live with is Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Green and Leonard getting clean looks from deep. You give ‘em those shots and you run the risk of a blowout.

OKC limited the Spurs to just 12 3-point attempts in Game 4 and just two makes. Green, Mills, Ginobili and Leonard combined to shoot just 1-of-9 from deep.

It’s not easy to stay as disciplined as the Thunder did in Game 4, but making San Antonio make long 2s looks like the best way to beat ‘em.

Personal opinion alert: credit Billy Donovan and his staff for having the guys ready to execute with a high level of focus. Donovan comes under a lot of fire at times, but the Thunder’s defensive execution in Games 2-4 has been excellent.

So here we go for Game 5. You’ll all hear the number about how the Game 5 winner of a 2-2 series goes on to win the series 82 percent of time, but take it with a grain of salt. Just last round Miami lost Game 5 at home, but responded against Charlotte to win 6 and 7.

Keep this in mind, though: the next two games will be played on just one day of rest, each, which should work to the young Thunder’s advantage. If San Antonio wins Game 5, the Thunder won’t be out of it at all. But if OKC wins Game 5, the aging Spurs might have a big problem.

Tip from the AT&T Center is set for 7 p.m. San Antonio is a touchdown favorite.

The Thunder need to win two of the next three to advance and Durant will likely need at least one more eruption in that span to give his team a great shot. The most encouraging part of Durant’s performance in Game 4 was that most of the shots were well-defended. It’s not like the Spurs just dogged it and will be able to make a quick adjustment. Durant used his length to bust jumper after jumper in the faces of Leonard and Green. He was downright unstoppable.

Pop realizing Kevin Durant outscored his entire team in the 4th quarterhttps://t.co/BBMuRquQiB

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 9, 2016

Let’s shift to Westbrook. The Thunder’s mercurial guard had an up-and-down Game 4, scoring just 14 points on 18 shots yet dishing out 15 assists to just three turnovers. Russ responded from Game 3 when he took 31 shots, admitting afterward that he needed to get his teammates more involved.

He did just that on Sunday night, locating Steven Adams early and often. Adams finished with 16 points on just eight shots, with every bucket coming on a close-to-rim finish. If Westbrook continues to remain patient, more Thunder possessions moving forward can end in Adams dunks instead of Russ jumpers.

The biggest stunner of the night, however, was Oklahoma City’s apparent mastery of how to limit that mighty Spurs offense. San Antonio is notorious for finding open 3s off of ball rotation, often times as a result of its opponent over-helping. The Thunder refused to help, relying on each individual to defend his man, and it worked.

This defensive strategy has it faults, as does any. LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and pretty much anyone else got open looks from 17 feet all night long, but OKC will live with that. What it can’t live with is Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Green and Leonard getting clean looks from deep. You give ‘em those shots and you run the risk of a blowout.

Manu: "We were not comfortable at all the whole game. We couldn't take open 3s or attack the lane. They were very active." #Spurs

— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) May 9, 2016

OKC limited the Spurs to just 12 3-point attempts in Game 4 and just two makes. Green, Mills, Ginobili and Leonard combined to shoot just 1-of-9 from deep.

It’s not easy to stay as disciplined as the Thunder did in Game 4, but making San Antonio make long 2s looks like the best way to beat ‘em.

Personal opinion alert: credit Billy Donovan and his staff for having the guys ready to execute with a high level of focus. Donovan comes under a lot of fire at times, but the Thunder’s defensive execution in Games 2-4 has been excellent.

So here we go for Game 5. You’ll all hear the number about how the Game 5 winner of a 2-2 series goes on to win the series 82 percent of time, but take it with a grain of salt. Just last round Miami lost Game 5 at home, but responded against Charlotte to win 6 and 7.

Keep this in mind, though: the next two games will be played on just one day of rest, each, which should work to the young Thunder’s advantage. If San Antonio wins Game 5, the Thunder won’t be out of it at all. But if OKC wins Game 5, the aging Spurs might have a big problem.

Tip from the AT&T Center is set for 7 p.m. San Antonio is a touchdown favorite.

","published":"2016-05-10T12:37:56.000Z","updated":"2016-05-10T12:37:56.000Z","summary":"

The Thunder defense seems to have figured out how to prevent the Spurs from raining 3s.

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