Spurs 120, Thunder 111 (SAS leads 2-0)
Over the past decade or so, a “business-like” victory for the San Antonio Spurs wasn’t all that aesthetically pleasing. It was slow, plodding and absent of much pace or flow. However, the system and its pieces worked really well. It worked to the tune of four titles over a nine-year span. Today, the faces do seem to all look the same.
But, my how things have changed.
Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was the epitome of what a business meeting with the Spurs looks like now. The Spurs were surgical, hitting shots early, seizing a double-digit lead midway through the first-quarter and never laying off the gas. The team’s 20th straight victory was a 120-111 clinic that now gives the team with the best regular season record a 2-0 advantage as the series shifts to Oklahoma City.
While the critics love to heap, well, criticism on the offensive shot selection and young decision makers on the Thunder, it was their collective inability to slow Tony Parker that was their ultimate undoing. Simply put, Parker finished with one of the most efficient point guard performances from this entire postseason. His brilliant 17-point first half was almost outdone, as he hit 16 of 21 total shots en route to 34 points. The Frenchmen was also more than willing to share. He doled out 8 assists, having his hand in 50 total points.
When Parker wasn’t throwing a pebble into his visual ocean, the team’s sets and crispness of execution positioned his teammates to find more than enough space for open shots. Wide open shots. After an abysmal defensive fourth quarter on Sunday in Game 1, the Thunder weren’t much better for 48 minutes on Tuesday. They were flatfooted, uncommunicative and had that perpetual lost look of a team unable to offer up much resistance. The Spurs hit seemingly dozens of threes; all of them wide open. They hit their first five long-range shots of the second half, which was key to the lead swelling from 11 at half to an overwhelming 22-point spread midway through the third.
To their credit, the megawatt trio of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant did their part in the box score. Durant scored 31 points on just 17 shots and the guard tandem almost equally combined for 57 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists and zero turnovers. But it wasn’t enough. Things got to within a couple possessions in the fourth, but not close enough to catch the Spurs.
The Thunder failed to get the offensive support they received from their role players in Game 1. Derek Fisher, Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha gave the team a huge lift on Sunday night, going 11-18 for 25 points, but were only able to muster a combined 12 points on just one less shot attempt in Game 2. The interior presence was pretty much transparent for OKC, as well.
The Spurs got 20 points and some key late-game buckets from Manu Ginobili and double-doubles each from Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, who played the best playoff ball of his young career.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks took his share of criticism himself after some of his small lineups were abused in Game 1 fourth quarter. On this evening, Coach Brooks did not have roster issues, but he never was able to slow down the Spurs. His team was consistently a step behind all night.
Rest assured, though, the next two games are sure to spark the Thunder, getting back to the friendly confines of the Chesapeake Energy Arena. But for the fans of the team now down 0-2, the next two games need to have a specific emphasis.