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Monday, May 28th, 2012 at 9:30 am  |  25 responses

Post Up: Spurs Get Nasty

San Antonio earns a Game 1 win over OKC with a strong fourth quarter finish.

Spurs 101, Thunder 98 (SAS leads 1-0)

It’s funny when the game of professional basketball actually becomes about the game of basketball. For three quarters on Sunday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder were more athletic, more energized and more productive. But for the final 12 minutes, the San Antonio Spurs ran crisper cuts, hit their open jumpers and were far more accountable on defense than their neighbors from just north. This shift allowed the home team to first erase a 9-point third-quarter deficit, then take the lead at the fourth quarter’s midway point before procuring an impressive 101-98 Game 1 win in their Western Conference Finals series.

Not necessarily the up-tempo track meet that many expected, this highly anticipated best-of-seven was still compelling as a series opener. The Spurs used the game’s final quarter to re-birth the defensive focus and offensive acumen that spawned three titles in the 2000’s. On the other hand, the Thunder ignored the aggressively effective play that had the rabid San Antonio fanbase sitting on their hands for much of the game. The visitors started settling exclusively for perimeter jumpers and the team’s superstars were never able to build any kind of individual or collective offensive momentum. Kevin Durant got a “casual 27” and was his usual greatness for stretches, but finished the game under 50 percent shooting from the floor. And Russell Westbrook lacked touch from all points on the floor en route to a pedestrian 17 points.

But much more important to the game’s final conclusion was the Thunder’s complete collective breakdown on the defensive end. They didn’t force the turnovers that had driven their earlier offensive push.

Instead, the Spurs’ backcourt—mainly Manu Ginobili—was allowed a free pass into the paint for easy baskets. When the Thunder forced any kind of resistance, open jumpshots were knocked down by reserves Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal.

To be honest, San Antonio was bad for a good part of the game tonight.

Bad offensively, at least.

The Spurs never made it easy on the Thunder. They won’t at any point in the series. If Westbrook and Durant can find the scoring touch again, Oklahoma City can win games in this series. Odds say the Thunder’s tandem will hit shots and this series will be a long one. But, the precision of the Spurs’ finish in Game 1 was too much for one night.

Sometimes a guy on the floor can say it best. Put it into terms that simplify what can be a simple game.

“They ran their sets, they got good shots. They got to the rim. They got the free throw line,” mentioned Durant postgame. “We did some really good things tonight. We got to keep playing hard. We got to keep going for 48 minutes.” —Cub Buenning (@cubbuenning)

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  • Mike Mihalow

    The reason Manu hasn’t played well until now, is because the Spurs haven’t been down in the 4th quarter until now.

  • Marge Required

    Harden was shooting the lights out towards the end

  • Otis

    I can’t see the Spurs losing this series, for the simple reason that Pop is 100000% better a coach than Scott Brooks. The rosters are a wash, but the Spurs just play better basketball.

  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    The Spurs’ experience will be the difference maker for them. I still feel like OKC is going to pull through in 7. This is the Spurs only real challenge all post season. (Sidenote: It can’t be a coincidence that Slam, Espn, & SI all had similarly worded headlines. Get some originality ppl).

  • http://nba.com GP23

    Manu Ginobili ran a clinic in the 4th. Excellent player.

  • Heals

    Once the Spurs wave hits shore it’s all but impossible to beat them. They simply overwhelm teams with plays coming from any/every player. The Spurs have a system, OKC is still trying to develop one. That said it’s just game 1 and SA needed it more…

  • T-Money

    pop 1 – 0 scotty. after which one of manu’s uncontested dribble-drives in the 4th scotty realized he effed up by sitting ibaka? i don’t expect okc to do much at all in this series, those schemes are way too rudimentary to bother pop.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Spurs played poor defense and turned it over early. The Thunder had more energy and looked awesome.
    Then the Spurs flipped the switch and started executing on both ends. And the Thunder couldn’t adjust to get good shots. The key will be whether that ia the norm or aberration.

  • LA Huey

    For a smart group of vets, it took the Spurs a long time to stop flinging cross-court passes and leaving their feet to pass the ball. It was probably also a little bit of having to adjust to the length of Durant/Thabo and Russbrook’s speed.

  • http://slamonline.com 19821982

    charliewinning – I get that they all decided to pull their headline from the same soundbite, but it was very appropriate for the game, unless you didn’t hear pop telling them to “get nasty” during that time out.

  • JoeMaMa

    SPURS, BABY! The big difference in this series is championship experience. I think the Thunder did good to bring in Fisher, but he’s really the only one with a championship pedigree; I don’t count Perkins, who while valuable to the Celtics, only won one title as a supporting cast member. I think this is the year before the Year of the Thunder, when they use this series loss to really ‘get’ what it takes to win the whole thing. Also, Popovich is just better than Brooks. Much better. That’s worth, what, 6-10 points a game? SPURS!

  • riggs

    who was on manu last night?

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Just what the hell were the Thunders running on offense last night during the 4th? I’ve seen middle schoolers run better offense than the crap Scott Brooks runs. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again; the guy is the anchor holding back OKC from reaching its full potential. Also, the moron topped off that BS with the worst move of the postseason so far by sitting Ibaka (by far the League’s top shot-blocker) a majority of the 4th qtr and instead went with a terrible PnR defender which led the Spurs and Manu to attack the rim unmolested.

  • HAMMER

    Bottom line is Spurs were too much for the young’uns.
    People never seem to give the Spurs enough credit.
    Instead they place blame on the other teams coach or players.
    Give credit where credit is due.

  • http://www.sportsgrid.com/media/shaq-kobe-highlights/ shutup

    The Spurs look rusty as hell early, shots that were dropping all-year were missing and the turnovers were killer, but throughout the game the were glimmers of hope, whether it was Splitter getting easy baskets after hard cuts or the pick-and roll with Duncan leading to easy lay-ups it always looked like the Spurs would find their stride; I was happy with Jackson’s defense on Durant.It looked for a bleak for a while but I knew it was a matter of time before the Spur’s shots would drop. Manu was tremendous tonight, Parker has to play better and not get caught up trying to outdo Westbrook.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Spurs in 7 or 5.
    .
    Heat in 7 or 5.
    .
    Boston and OKC can win either series, but I don’t think it’s very likely. Last night was OKC’s chance to capitalize on an out of sync Spurs team. If they can’t win with San Antonio playing like that, then I don’t see them beating them 4 times in 7 games.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    I don’t think Boston is going to beat Miami without Avery Bradley (which nobody could have even thought was a possible scenario before March)

  • Mike

    If ibaka was playing in the 4th I think all these comments would be saying something different. So many one sided opinions

  • Bola

    I think OKC didn’t play ball in the 4th quarter. No doubt their offense was stagnant. And yesterday’s game was the perfect game for OKC to win because to be honest with you, Spurs didn’t play well until OKC went blank in the 4th. They played 3 good quarters of basketball. Another thing was Harden didn’t step his game up and Westbrook was making some dumb decisions, which is his main weakness. Durant wanted to bear the scoring responsibility but spurs thanks to Stephen Jack took him out of his rhythm. From the first game it’s evident and clear that OKC can actually beat the Spurs. But from the first game it’s also clear that for OKC to beat them they need to be efficient on offense and play 48 MINUTES of good basketball (Intense D) and not 36 minutes.The question is can they play 48 minutes of basketball. Can they be efficient and will all the bench players step up. I think if Spurs win it’s safe to say they will beat Heat (If Heat wins the East) but Celtics (If celtics wins the East) will be a better match as we will see 2 experienced teams grinding it out till the end.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Ibaka wasn’t playing because Scotty Brooks is the coach. That was always the main disadvantage for the Thunder. Brooks had his team ready early but he faded late. They got crap shots for an entire quarter and he changed nothing.

  • http://www.yahoo.com The Fury

    Tiago Splitter can be really good if he stays with San Antonio and Gary NEal is clutch and Manu is MANU. I think the reason Ibaka didn’t play much in the 4th because Pop inserted his quick line-up, if he clogs the lane as he used to, San Antonio could have scored more 3-pointers because of their ability to drive and dish.

  • Rainman

    Ginobili showed why talent wise he is the best player on the Spurs, when healthy. Coming in to the season, it was widely accepted manu was their best player. Manu played with a broken arm and averaged 20 a game in the playoffs, where as tony parker was outplayed by conley, and tim by z-bo and gasol. Manu goes down, so tony’s number is called, and he’s more than capable of stepping up to lead ofc. But when healthy…Manu is a top 3 Shooting guard. behind wade and kobe

  • KidCongo

    Everybody seems to think this series will drag on. Maybe it won’t. Spurs are still undefeated. They didn’t even play well.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Spurs in 5.
    Book it – to coin a phrase….

    ALSO – The Heat will get beaten in the Finals YET AGAIN by a team that plays as one…. firstly the Mavs now the Spurs. I hope LeBron tastes finals defeat for the rest of his life.

    but i aint hating.

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/3183/tex-winter-compares-kobe-bryant-and-michael-jordan Allenp

    I don’t think the Spurs will beat the Heat, if that’s the matchup.
    Mainly because the Heat live at the rim. As long as their outside shooters are hitting shots, Wade and Bron live at the rim.

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