Spurs 122 – Thunder 104 (San Antonio leads 1-0)
Basketball is an art, and the San Antonio Spurs are the masterful artists of our era.
Witnessing such professional artists do their craft is a blessing. Let’s all take a moment to be grateful because we are now officially in the Conference Finals stage of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Players and coaches of 26 squads watch at home like the rest of us fans, and all eyes are on the four remaining teams.
Of those four teams, two tipped off their thus-far most important game of the Playoffs last night, Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs, who were quite successful in art shows past, held their brushes most gracefully Monday night on their home floor. They took advantage of the open paint, where they scored 66—more than half of their total points and more than double their opponents’ performance from the same area on the court.
This was made possible in part by the absence of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka, an artist in his own right. He averaged 2.7 blocks per game on the season—that makes him No. 2 in the League. His team last night really missed him; they had a total of three block shots in the entire game. Injuries sure do stink up the place—the 6-10 center/power forward is expected to miss the rest of the postseason with a strain on his left calf.
After seeing how things played out this first game, the Thunder must plan to protect the paint come Game 2. They don’t have a choice really. Tim Duncan attacked the rim right from the get-go, putting up 12 points in the first quarter alone. The Big Fundamental led his team with 27 points in 29 minutes and was one of five Spurs in double figures. Kawhi Leonard added another 16, including this lovely spin move in the fourth quarter:
San Antonio’s largest lead of the game was 23, and they finished off the Thunder up 18 points. OKC lacked on both the defensive and offensive ends of the court—two of their starters in Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha scored zero points in a combined 31 minutes.
What we can expect tomorrow night at 9 p.m. EST is hopefully an adjusted Thunder team that’ll put up a strong fight both in the paint and outside. While their known skills didn’t translate well onto the canvas that was the AT&T Center floor last night, they have a chance to clean up their tools and redeem their artistic craft in Game 2.