There wasn't much we haven't already seen in Spurs loss to the Thunder. And that's ok. Thursday night's game contains just enough clues to the way San Antonio can take down OKC.
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The Spurs lost to the Thunder for the fourth time this season, snapping a 19-game winning streak. Over the last two years, San Antonio has struggled to beat OKC and it seems the road back to the finals will lead to a series with the Thunder. A win on Thursday night would have pretty much secured home court advantage.
Truth is: it was a tough loss. It's not crazy to be angry, disappointed or panicky right now. I was a combination of all three as the game was being played. But after it ended I found a little perspective and I feel calm. Because the game didn't really tell us anything we didn't already know and I still believe the Spurs can beat the Thunder in a seven game series.
OKC takes advantage of the way they're are allowed to be extra aggressive on defense
Enough has been said about the refs so I won't rehash it. But it's true that the Thunder get away with a lot of contact under the rim. When you combine that with the length of their rim protectors and the perimeter defenders that lurk to catch any big who lowers the ball, you get a situation in which inside scoring is hard to come by.
Look at these two plays involving everyone's favorite scapegoat, Tiago Splitter.
Diaw pump fakes and drives, drawing in Splitter's man. Tiago makes himself available and receives the pass close to the rim. But he has two elite rim protectors, Ibaka and Perkins, on him.
Normally, as Duncan's man abandons him to help, Splitter would make a wrap around pass for an easy two by Timmy. But Roberson has already rotated, leaving Green open. Splitter tries to get a shot up but he can't. The ball is loose and Splitter grabs it again but Roberson and Ibaka get a hand in there. Jump ball.
In this second play, Parker draws the defense in on a pick-and-roll with Splitter and passes to Tiago. But Splitter has Ibaka, Perkins and Durant guarding him. That's too much length.
Splitter once again tries to get a shot up but gets blocked, recovers the ball and passes it outside to Parker.
Those are two great examples of how the Thunder protect the paint. They bring a lot of bodies in and force a tough shot. They do a fantastic job of protecting the rim and while Ibaka is a big part of that, he is not the only factor.
How the Spurs can counter it
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“ I’m honored to be on this team right now because he’s going to be great for years to come, and I’m going to hold on as long as I can.” -Tim Duncan on Kawhi Leonard.
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