Game 1 of a possible 7 has completed resulting in a victory of 101-98 for the San Antonio Spurs versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
What began as a decent outlook for the Thunder quickly disassembled in the second half as the they were held scoreless for a fair amount of time, lacking movement, fluidity, execution, and namely out of control by a certain few individuals.
Initially the Spurs had 14 turnovers in the first half and with tremendous care taken on the basketball and wonderous execution offensively, defensively, they limited themselves to committing only 3 turnovers for the last 24 minutes.
Let’s begin by what the Thunder did well and porous in the first half.
I cannot comment on the first 17 minutes of the game because I did not watch it. I started at around the 7 mark in the second quarter. With that being said, the Thunder’s execution wasn’t that great. Westbrook nailed a couple of pull up jumpers here and there off the pick. That was really about it.
Defensively, from what I observed, they have moved ibaka off to the bench with perkins coming in, durant on the 4, harden as the 3, fisher at the 2 and westbrook as the 1. The reason for this is because despite ibaka being the legitimate defensive presence with the shot blocking inside, with guys like matt bonner who can stretch it out to the three point line, there’s no way that the thunder would want to see ibaka all the way there. Where is the weakside help going to come from? For instances we even saw russell guarding matt at times.
To the second half, the thunder executed porously. With the spurs keying in on the scoring by russell and kevin, they really had no other offensive options. Harden has yet to get it going offensively. They tried getting the ball to durant on numerous occasions, trying to set him free off of pin-downs or baseline curls. But when he catches, he catches the passes at 20 feet, 22 feet. There is no way he can operate because outside of his own defender – which for the latter part of the game, was stephen jackson – there’s around 5-7 feet or less between durant and the next help defender. On one play we see jackson doing a great job forcing durant into the help on the left side. There’s neal, ginobili, and jackson before kevin got bailed out by a jump ball called by mark davis. One simple word. Execution. And that word for me is not “let’s get it to kobe and let him do his thing”. “This ain’t kobe”. This is kevin durant. if the play at the end of the game is designed for him, then run him off cross screens, pin-downs, backdoor screens. Many instances, plays such as those that involve such tremendous screening for the most “clutch” guy on the team, certain guys will be open simply because the defensive sets are for the denial of the ball receiver. With that happening, the screener(s) will be open possibly. Remember in that game 4 win against the lakers; world peace gave durant room to walk in comfortably into that three point shot from the right wing. How about kevin for this game? His defender was no more than half a feet away from him. 5 guys keying in on KD? Tough for him and the Thunder.
Defensively, their pick and roll coverages were porous. The “bigs” are far too down and away which causes the split of that high screen and roll utilized by manu and tony parker. That causes bad rotations coming from the weakside either because they’re by the wrong person or they’re just late. & because of this lack of defensive execution on the screen and roll, the thunder were at the spurs mercy when it comes to how to utilize it because they could do anything they want with the space there. Split by tony here and there, a simple bounce pass to the big fundamental as he rolls hard to the basket. The spurs plays aren’t hard. I’m not saying that to be cocky or anything. It’s just the truth. Their execution is legendary because they’re simple, with great spacing, and simply selfless individuals who care not about “who” scores the basket but “if” we get the basket that results in two points, three points, or a trip to the charity stripe.
In the spurs perspective, in the first half they seemed tremendously flustered offensively, tony parker struggling, not taking care of the ball.
The thunder wasn’t doing particularly well on the defensive side, the spurs just missed shots and turned the ball over.
In the second half, their execution was so easy, crisp, and well accomplished. Pick and roll, roll to the basket; pick and roll, split of the defensive, score; pick and roll, split of the defensive, set the next man up, score. Three step plays are what I like to call these. That’s what the spurs ran the offense through in the latter half. Simple and crisp, nothing more and nothing less. On one instance, off of an inbounds play, manu setted up weakside bumping with the defender getting separation, came of an elbow screen, free throw line, then off of a screen set in between the free throw line extended and baseline on the strong side of where the ball was inbounded. Essentially a “double screen” for a lack of better word, manu bumped his man, got separation then more after coming off those screens into a weakside-strongside basket cut, received the ball, lay up. How difficult is that play? Weakside elbow screen, pin-down, curl basket cut, bucket. Crisp, at the end of the day, resulted in two points. Execution cannot get any better than this.
Defensively, they played durant so well forcing him to one side. Besides the charges taken by neal, they kind of sagged off of westbrook. But knowing the knuckle headed ucla product, he will definitely barrage thru those spurs defenders that are obviously set there for an evident charge call. Out-of-control as reggie miller says.
Offensively, the thunder need to execute plays instead of running the offense thru the big three. Consider possibly, letting the big three start the game off, then allow the others to get involved as a part of the deferred focus to the big three. Execute execute execute, can’t say anything more than that.
Defensively, the durant to the 4 strategy obviously became porous down the stretch. I still like the idea of having ibaka out there. The thunder are just afraid of the rotations they will have once ibake is baited out there. As long as you get your defensive rotations right, it’ll be fine.
For the spurs, continue with the pick and roll, spreading the shooters. Hall-of-fame strategies.
Defense will take care of itself as they have corrected those 1st half mistakes in the 2nd.
Tune into game 2 which happens this Tuesday.