Well, wasn’t that fun?
In a game that was brimming with action and drama all over the place, the Spurs managed to do what they’ve been doing for 19 straight games now. Win. Though it was one hell of a ride to that 19th straight victory, that’s for sure.
In a game where the Thunder looked to be very much in control going in to the final period, the Spurs never gave up. Down by nine points going in to the fourth quarter, the Spurs rallied to a thrilling three point victory, scoring 39 points in the final period.
With their win tonight, the Spurs tied the record for longest win streak kept going in the postseason, garnering their 19th straight victory. The Thunder were game though, as it looked like they might have come away with the victory in a game that really wasn’t decided until the final seconds.
Ball movement was the name of the game tonight for San Antonio. Constantly willing to make the extra pass, the Spurs were constantly putting themselves in the best position to score. The Thunder seemed like they were doing the opposite. Instead of working the ball around for an open look, the Thunder were content to run iso set after iso set, and it didn’t work out too well for them – especially in the fourth. On more than one occasion, Westbrook, Durant and Harden found themselves forcing up a tough shot only to miss.
And don’t let the 27 points they scored in the fourth fool you – they had a tough go round. At one point in time they’d made only two of nine shots, and if it wasn’t for a barrage of late threes, the scoreboard wouldn’t have been nearly as close as it was.
Manu Ginobli came off the bench to score a teamhigh 26 points for the Spurs – including an array of drives that would make anyone’s jaw drop to the ground. Tony Parker, who had a rough start to the game, ended up scoring 18 points to along with his six assists and eight rebounds.
Kevin Durant led the way for the Thunder with 27 points, while Russell Westbrook chipped in with 17. James Harden, who missed nine of his first 12 shots finished with 19, including five for nine from behind the arc.
Player of the Game: Manu Ginobli
If anyone saw the game, they’d understand the pick. Ginobli was constantly coming through with the big play tonight – whether it be making the key pass on a kickout or making one of his patented and ridiculous drives to the hoop for an and one. One thing I’d like to point out as I was talking to fellow writer John Armstrong (who will also be covering this series) is that Manu Ginobli, despite his age, is still the most creative player in the NBA, especially aruond the rim. And that showed tonight. Without Ginobli, the Spurs don’t win tonight.
Zero of the Game: Russell Westbrook
As some of you might know, I’m not a huge fan of his. And tonight showcased why. Far too often he forced up a bad shot instead of making the pass. The fact that he also took more shots than Durant and made fewer is also a problem. I understand he’s a very gifted player, but if they’re going to win this series, he has to play better going forward. He needs to cut down on the turnovers and the poor shots, otherwise, his team will be watching the NBA Finals from their respective couches.
It’s hard to really zero in on what each team needs to do after just one game, especially given how well both teams played for stretches. For now though, I’ll make it simple. The Thunder need to get better ball movement. Better ball movement equals easier shots. And easier shots tend to go in. They weren’t getting a lot of easy ones, especially in the fourth, and it was because of ball movement. There was a graphic at one point that showcased each teams possessions and the amount of passes they made (this was at the beginning of the fourth). At this time, the Spurs had 84 possessions and 154 passes. The Thunder had 81 possessions and 91 passes. Huge difference and a huge problem for the Thunder.
For San Antonio, I can’t really say much. They played a crisp offensive game and their defense was about as good as expected. All they really need to do is close out on the Thunder three point shooters a little better and I think they’ll be fine. Oklahoma City did do that well tonight, as they hit nine of their 23 attempts from there. It also wouldn’t hurt them to make better than 68 percent of their free throws.
Game two will be Tuesday at 9:00 PM EST (that’s 8:00 PM for you guys in the Midwest, and 6:00 PM for those out West).