Oklahoma City Thunder – 102
San Antonio Spurs – 82
Fellow writer Mike Owens and I are cooperatively covering this series. Mike covers the home team while I cover the away team.
San Antonio came into this game hot and on fire, winning 20 straight games including 18 postseason victories. However, in Game 3, the Spurs fell flat. It looked like the Thunder and Spurs switched places from the previous two games.
The Spurs offense was never able to find its groove. They looked rushed all game. They were not able to penetrate with much success, nor was their pick and roll game in effect. Tim Duncan had to work for his shot attempts and was never truly comfortable in the paint as the pressure from Oklahoma City was condensed enough to front him before he could set himself up. He was supposed to be the veteran and understand how to handle pressure situations but he was caught forcing shots, often out of necessity. The Thunder thwarted the screen and roll game of the Spurs and it messed up the entire ball rotation. The Spurs starters not named Tony Parker or Tim Duncan combined for a meteoric nine points. Nine. Add to that, Manu Ginobili was only able to score one field goal, and it’s easy to see why the Spurs could never generate any consistent offense. What makes San Antonio so good is their ability to spread the ball to a multitude of different offensive options. When that was taken away by the Thunder’s stifling defense, Parker felt pressured into having to take over at times and made out of character plays that did not fit the Spurs identity.
Despite controlling the Three P’s to Victory, in Games 1 and 2, the Spurs failed to control any of the three at any point in Game 3. They never had a pace because they displayed no patience. They did not let their game come to them. They tried to force their offense, resulting in 21 turnovers that lead to 18 Oklahoma City fast break points compared to San Antonio’s seven fast break points. Rather than acting as the aggressor, the Spurs reacted to the Thunder, both offensively and defensively. The Spurs players were not on the same page and looked to be on different wavelengths.
The Spurs were unable to assert pressure. Pressure does not always have to be defensive. Pushing the break and scoring efficiently put pressure on the defending team thus effecting their offense too. Pressure can also be the defense applied to the offensive team. The Spurs accomplished neither. Scoring was very difficult and defending was not any easier. The Thunder took a page out of the Spurs playbook offensively and spread the ball very well. They got production out of numerous players, making the Spurs defend everyone. This left San Antonio’s paint vulnerable to the Thunder’s penetration, leading to 44 points in the paint compared to San Antonio’s 24 points in the paint. San Antonio was caught out of position far too many times, leading to wide open perimeter jump shots.
The veteran Spurs looked like their age caught up with them. This series is far from over though. The series will fall into the hands of whichever team masters the Three P’s to Victory. These keys are specific to this series and the winner will be the team that utilizes them to the best of their abilities.
*Encouraging Note: Tim Duncan surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all time leader in career playoff blocks. There is some defense being played.
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