San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Game 2: Can Thunder protect the paint?
Sometimes one stat can tell the story.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals San Antonio scored 66 points in the paint. That equals the most the Thunder gave up all season. It speaks directly to the loss of Serge Ibaka and how Thunder coach Scott Brooks spent all of Game 1 trying to find a lineup or strategy that could both score and slow down the Spurs (who put up 122 in the opener).
The question for Game 2 is simply this:
“So, Scott, what did you come up with?”
Some of the Thunder’s success came when they sagged way back into the paint in the second half, clogging things up. It’s what Dallas did to some success in the first round. Expect to see more of that. Problem is if you sag you leave Tony Parker, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and the rest of the Spurs more open at the arc, and that can burn you.
One thing we can hope to see is a front line combination of Nick Collison and Steven Adams — those two were +16 in 17 minutes after Serge Ibaka went down in Game 6 against the Clippers, but Brooks didn’t play them together at all in Game 1. Not sure exactly what he’s saving them for, but Game 2 is time to break out that pairing.
Aside that, look for some “small” (Kevin Durant at the four) lineups, but more “big” ones as Oklahoma City generally had more success that way. For example, the starting five — Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefalosha, Durant, Collison and Kendrick Perkins — made a nice run in the second half and were +4 after the break (after a poor start to the game).
The problem with the big lineups for OKC is that it doesn’t have a lot of scoring options outside Durant and Westbrook and it puts extra pressure on those two to do all the scoring. While the Spurs defense is focused on them.
As for San Antonio… another game like that would work.
Of course, another game with 66 points in the paint and shooting 25-of-29 at the rim is not likely. What they need to do is carry over the attacks in the paint, be aggressive, and if the Thunder do pack the paint more they need to make them pay with threes right over the top of it.
The other key for San Antonio is another strong defensive game. Durant and Westbrook are going to get theirs and put up 50-70 points between the two of them, the key is not to let Reggie Jackson or Caron Butler put up a big numbers, too.
Mostly though the Spurs just have to attack on offense and see if Scott Brooks found any answers.