In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich got a little bit of his own medicine when Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks decided to intentionally foul Tiago Splitter, just like the Spurs did to DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Evans in the second round against the Clippers. It wasn’t nearly as effective because Splitter made 5 of 10 free throws, but it did accomplish the goal of slowing down the Spurs’ offense that was hitting on all cylinders up to that point.
Can we expect to see the same strategy in Game 3?
"It changed the tempo a bit,” said Brooks. “I mean, they were fast tonight. The ball was just all over the floor with quick passes, passes that were right in their shooting pockets, and it kind of threw their rhythm out a little. He stepped up and made [five] of them. He did better than his playoff percentage. But if on occasion we have an opportunity to do it again, we will."
In my opinion, one of the big surprises of this series is that the fast paced tempo doesn’t favor the Thunder. I would have thought that getting up and down and fast breaking would help the younger, more athletic team. In reality, the Spurs work extremely well at a high pace because they can execute better.
The Thunder have to know at this point that the best way for them to play the Spurs is to slow the game down and play a physical game. Pure strength may be the only advantage the Thunder have, and if they want to win, they’ll have to turn the game into a slugfest. That includes the Hack-a-Splitter strategy to slow down the pace.
The crazy Oklahoma City fans may miss the quick pace of an exciting game, but I’m sure they’d rather win. The only chance the Thunder have is if they can out-muscle the Spurs. We’ll see if they make the right adjustments for Game 3 tonight and turn this into a series, or if Spurs fans can start busting out their brooms again.
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@mracesmith why would anyone read your article, we can barely read those 3 lines... oh and GO SPURS GO!
Intentionally fouling Splitter won't work.. The Spurs have 2 days to prepare for this especially Splitter. The coaching staff, particularly Chip Engelland has prepared Splitter for this. The thunder are younger and more athletic. They should capitalize on this fact. There's no stopping the Spurs now. They are like a runaway train. Another win tonight and it will end the ambitions of the thunder. Go Spurs!
I think if Pop or Chip could have gotten Splitter's free throw percentage better in a day and a half they would have done it long ago. If they foul him, he won't magically get better at his free throws, but as JMattHicks said, let them foul him if they want, and then laugh when they have to tip toe around Parker when they are in foul trouble. Always trust in Pop. He will have a plan! Go Spurs!
The Thunder are limited in players that can foul. You don't want to foul out Ibaka/Perkins. Collision can take a few fouls. But that is it, basically. In addition, I think OKC will like more 'pace' at home, where the crowd and the familiar setting help them.
In the end, it will depend on Splitters shooting. If he manages to stay above the one-point-per-possession, they'll be fine. The Spurs must just they their own game. If they execute, OKC cannot stop them.
I still expect to see a monster night from either Duncan or Bonner.