May 27, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half in game one of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at the AT

2012 NBA Western Conference Finals: The Three P's to Victory


 

Pace, Patience, Pressure

It’s interesting that pace and patience are listed together. Usually you’d think that they’d offset each other. However, in this matchup of the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, these two themes along with persistent passing will determine the winner of the series.

Pace

Both teams have the ability to run the floor and push the break. The deciding factor will be which team can control the flow of the game in the halfcourt set. To win, each team will have to play their own pace and in the process, force the other team to play into their pace. San Antonio has the advantage because, even though they’ve sped their pace up with their youth, they still know how to slow it down and play efficiently. Oklahoma City struggles in their halfcourt sets. In order to compete, they’ll have to force San Antonio into making offensive mistakes such as forced shots, early shots, and turnovers so they can push the break and make San Antonio run. To avoid being beat by the other team’s fastbreak, you have to push your own.

Patience

Patience will be a huge key to this series because both teams will have to utilize all 48 minutes of each game. San Antonio was able to pull off the comeback because they used the clock to their advantage. Oklahoma City was on a roll and finished the third quarter with a nine point lead. This caused them to take early shots and become careless with the ball. San Antonio was able to monitor the time, not panic, and ease their way back into the game behind a run led by Tony Parker.

Patience does not mean sitting around waiting for something to happen. Rather, patience is the key to the success of a halfcourt set. The best way to maintain efficiency is by moving the ball and spreading the floor. San Antonio does an excellent job of that because of their numerous options. Every player on the court has some type of offensive ability that makes it necessary to defend them. Their shooters spot up on the wings to open the floor for the big men and the slashers like Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Oklahoma City will have to utilize the pass more often. It may be difficult with post players like Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, who are not dangerous scorers. However, swinging the ball can catch a defender out of position, which will open up the floor for scorers like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. In order for the Thunder to really do damage in the halfcourt, Thabo Sefolosha will have to have a solid offensive impact. He doesn’t have to score in double figures, but he’ll have to hit a few key buckets early on in games to urge defenders to guard him and not cheat the passing lanes.

Passing is the imaginary P that coincides with patience. They are one in the same and go hand in hand.

Pressure

Scoring will win games, but defense will win the championships. Whichever team can play the best defense will win. It sounds obvious, but it is essential to every winning team, and more importantly, every championship team. Pressure is necessary to force teams into taking poor shots. Holding teams to the last few seconds of the shot clock will force them to exert more energy to get a shot off, call more timeouts, and make poorer offensive decisions. Forced shots end up in airballs, which are generally turnovers, or long rebounds that can lead to fastbreaks. The Thunder are young and athletic, but forcing them to run will have its lasting effects and will induce fatigue. The Spurs are deeper and can switch players in and out to match the Thunder’s players and that will surely have long term effects during the series.

The Thunder do have defensive gems in Perkins, Sefolosha, and Serge Ibaka, and they all play at a high level of intensity. The way they impact the post and the wing will affect the Spurs’ pace. However, the depth of the Spurs will cause problems for the Thunder later on in the series, assuming it goes longer than four games.

Pace, Patience, Pressure

 

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