Contrary to reaction on Twitter and various media outlets, the Oklahoma City Thunder didn't take advantage of the Western Conference Finals. They simply kept their season alive. After going down 2-0, there was no way the Thunder could afford to lose. Going down 3-0 or 3-1 would certainly have made coming back against the San Antonio Spurs without the benefit of home court advantage would've been close to impossible.
So here we are back at square one.
A three game series, first to two wins. Despite momentum seemingly being on Oklahoma City's side, here's some reasons why Spurs fans should feel optimistic going in to Monday night's game.
Starting big picture, it's important to note the Thunder haven't won in San Antonio since November 14, 2009 and are 1-6 in there last seven games in San Antonio.
- The first two games and second two games for the Thunder have looked radically different. In game one Durant, Harden, Westbrook combine for 63 points and scorching 88 in Game Two. That trio then scored 47 in the Game Three blowout and 54 in Game Four with 36 of those points coming from Durant. Game Four felt a lot like Games One and Two except for two things. First, Serge Ibaka couldn't miss. He went 11-11 and six of those shots were mid-range jumpers. That's a shot the Spurs are OK giving up despite his being a pretty good mid-range shooter. The second difference was Kevin Durant going bananas in the fourth quarter. The Spurs had done an incredible job of containing Durant in the fourth of both Games One and Two. OKC will surely go back to the screen that got Durant open at the elbow. Either we'll see a lot more of Stephen Jackson getting physical with Durant or will see the Spurs' defenders switch on the screen and have coach Gregg Popovich bring a quick double from several different defenders to slow down Durant.
- As was previously mentioned, Ibaka shot a combined 16-20 in Games Three and Four, Perkins 9-13. Those two were 6-23 in Games One and Two. 6-23 is really bad, but I'm willing to be they shoot closer to that moving forward than the combined 25-33 they shot in Games Three and Four. If that happens expect to see Russell Westbrook be more aggressive, which is good because Russell Westbrook is a good basketball player, but it also means we won't see anything close to the 50 combined assists from the Thunder. The Spurs want Westbrook to shoot more because he's less likely to move the ball around, which will result in a lot of mid-range jumpers and three's.
- Enough about the Thunder. Here's something important, after a game and a half of trying to beat Perkins and Ibaka down low, Tim Duncan went 5-8, finished with 12 points in the 2nd half. He looked much more confident and willing to attack the basket.
- Spurs scored 60 points in the 2nd half of Game Five, ten of those shots were assisted on. They also took nine free throw attempts.
- Until Durant's explosion, the Thunder only scored 29 points in 18 minutes, meaning they were on pace for 38 points in the 2nd half until Durant went crazy. The Spurs scored 39 and outscored the Thunder by six points in quarters one, three and four. The defense was better in spurts, Spurs have to hope guys miss shots and that they're a little bit tighter on defensive rotations.
- The Spurs got back to what made them successful in Games One and Two, scoring 52 points in the paint. The problem was they allowed Oklahoma City to score 48 points in the same area.
- After leaving for one game, the three point shot returned. The Spurs made 11-23 three point attempts, shooting 48 percent.
A lot of things didn't go well for the Spurs in Oklahoma City, but fans of the Silver and Black should take comfort in the fact that two of the next three games are at home. The Thunder won't go quietly, but the Spurs have been the better, more consistent team all season long. Winning two more games is going to be tougher on Oklahoma City then it will be on San Antonio.
End of a journey? Great teams become great because they thrive on pressure. The Spurs showed weakness in Oklahoma City. Splitter is definitely NOT the man to succeed TD. Diaw is TOO short to defend the interior. Only the role players showed poise in the light of the roucous crowd. Tonight's game is a defining moment for the Spurs. What they do will go a long way in looking at the present lineup. It appears they need help, an interior defense and a player to sub for TD everytime he rests. Splittter is a bungling neophyte and Diaw showed how inadequate he is. Let's hope the next 2 games will be kinder for them. As usual Leonard and Jackson MUST limit durant's production. Check thunder's role players and continue to produce. Otherwise, we will see thunder steamroll over them easily. Go Spurs!