Spurs Down Resilient Thunder, Take Commanding 2-0 Lead

The Oklahoma City Thunder never gave up, but a dominant Game 2 performance characterized by Tony Parker’s penetration, fantastic ball movement and prolific outside shooting helped San Antonio win their 20th game in a row and take a 2-0 lead on the series with a 120-111 victory at home. Parker annihilated Russell Westbrook and a downright lazy OKC interior defense with 34 points and eight assists while Manu Ginobili once again hit big baskets down the stretch to fend off Oklahoma City’s attempts at coming back. Ginobili finished with 20 off the bench as the Spurs led by as many as 22 until the Thunder cut the lead to six with less than six minutes to play.

For the majority of the night, this was a complete blowout. The Thunder mounted a comeback to gap the third and fourth quarters as the Spurs missed 12 of 15 shots during one stretch, but it was too little too late for the OKC after playing so poorly in the first half. Ever since Gregg Popovich gave his “I Want Some Nasty!” speech in Game 1, the Spurs have been completely unstoppable. Parker torched Westbrook on the offensive end, shooting 16-of-21 from the floor. Ginobili hit six of his eleven shots and made a big difference down the stretch to help stave off the Thunder’s late comeback. Kawhi Leonard was a killer, going 7-of-12 to finish with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Tim Duncan shot only 2-of-11 and finished with just 11 points and 12 rebounds, but San Antonio still shot a staggering 55 percent from the floor to put up 120 points. Westbrook couldn’t keep Parker out of the lane, and that penetration got him easy looks and freed up teammates as well. The Thunder’s help-side defenders didn’t help matters either, as they were forced to play off their man to help with the penetration off the pick-and-roll, giving the Spurs wide open 3-point looks. San Antonio hit 11 3-pointers thanks to Parker’s penetration and prolific ball movement that left the Thunder’s defense dazed and confused. Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks switched strategies in the third quarter to try and minimize the Spurs’ offense by using a “Hack-a-Splitter” tactic. However, it only gained them one point as Tiago Splitter hit 6-of-12 free throws.

Tony Parker torched Russell Westbrook for 34 points and gave the Spurs a commanding 2-0 lead.

Scott Brooks will likely catch a lot of heat for that “Hack-a-Splitter” strategy, but he should hear a lot more criticism for his poor substitutions and overall coaching in this series so far. Popovich has his entire rotation system completely figured out, while Brooks has left key players on the bench for extended periods of time. In Game 1, it was Serge Ibaka who sat out for the game’s final 16 minutes. In Game 2, Derek Fisher was left on the floor late into the fourth quarter while Thabo Sefolosha, who offers nothing on the offensive end but could have helped get stops and rebounds to aid OKC’s comeback, sat on the bench. Fisher finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting, so Brooks’ decision to leave him in the game so late seriously hindered the Thunder’s improbable comeback. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 31 points, five rebounds and five assists while James Harden played much more like the Sixth Man of the Year, finishing with 30 points and seven rebounds. However, Russell Westbrook let his team down once again by being completely exploited by Tony Parker on the defensive end. He ended up with 27 points, but shot just 10-of-24. Durant, in contrast, shot 10-of-17 from the floor. To summarize, Westbrook took seven more shots than the NBA’s scoring leader this season. That cannot and should not happen in Game 3 if the Thunder want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

For the Thunder, this game almost certainly means elimination. Unless they win both games at home and build massive momentum in the process, OKC will fail to reach the NBA Finals for the second year in a row. The Thunder have monumental problems on the defensive end: In Game 1, they gave up 39 points in the fourth quarter; in Game 2, they gave up 37 in the third. And the trouble isn’t just Westbrook trying to guard Parker, but Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are another massive problem area as well. Ibaka and Perkins were bad enough on the offensive end (they combined for just 11 points), but their defense on the interior was borderline laughable at times. Granted, it wasn’t their fault Westbrook was getting burned on the pick-and-roll, but they played too far off of shooters, gave up easy buckets on the inside and did little to prevent the Spurs from completely spreading the floor on every possession. San Antonio put on a show in Game 2, but the Thunder’s ability to compete in this series has been nothing short of disappointing up to this point. Westbrook has been inefficient and is taking too many shots away from Durant; Ibaka and Perkins have had no impact on either side of the floor; OKC’s role players have given them nothing; and to top it all off, Scott Brooks has been completely out-coached by Gregg Popovich. The Thunder still have a chance if they take care of business at home, but only 14 teams have ever come back to win a series after facing a 2-0 deficit. At this point, Oklahoma City would need a complete defensive overhaul to win the next two at home, where they went 26-7 during the regular season. I’d like to say the Thunder are good enough to do so, but all the Spurs need to do is steal one of the next two games in OKC to close this series up at home. That might be too much pressure for anyone to handle against this offensive juggernaut.

OKC’s back is up against the wall. Do the Thunder have what it takes to come back in this series?

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One thought on “Spurs Down Resilient Thunder, Take Commanding 2-0 Lead

  1. Pingback: Thunder Bounce Back In Game 3 Blowout | Bourguet's BasketBlog

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