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Spurs vs. Thunder: Game 3 Pregame Primer

Spurs vs. Thunder: Game 3 Pregame Primer



Western Conference Semifinals (Best 4 of 7)

Spurs (5-1, 2-0 road) vs. Thunder (5-2, 2-1 home)

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 8:30 PM CST

Series tied 1-1

Playoff Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats – out of 16 teams)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 112.6 (2nd), Spurs – 112.1 (3rd)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (9th), Spurs – 92.9 (2nd)

The only thing that you need to know about Game 2, is that Dion Waiters had a rule named after him. We’ve reached the point in the season where every game a team is currently playing is “the most important game of the season!”. While that was definitely the case for the Thunder in Game 2, it wasn’t like the Thunder hadn’t been in that position before (down 0-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs). They’ve actually been in that position twice in their history and have always gone on to win Games 3 and 4.

But the Thunder have never been tied against the Spurs heading back home for Games 3 and 4. And honestly, that worries me a little bit. The desperation the team showed in Game 2 has usually been reserved for the home games in 3 and 4 in the past. But now, with the series tied 1-1, its interesting to see how the Thunder (and the Spurs) come out for these next two games.

Will the Thunder relax a little now that they aren’t in the 0-2 hole that usually befalls them against this team? Will the Spurs come out like a desperate, caged animal to not fall behind to the Thunder? I usually have a good feel for what will happen next in a series, but I can honestly say I have no idea how these next two games play out. And in that ignorance is where the bliss of playoff basketball hides.

3 Big Things

1. Picking Their Poison

The Thunder have never really been the type of team to pick their poison. Under Scott Brooks, when faced with difficult decisions, the Thunder usually just manned up and defended their man. Yeah, there were the occasional Thabo Sefolosha on Tony Parker moves, but those usually arose out of necessity, not ingenuity. But under Billy Donovan, you are starting to see a couple of wrinkles that suggest he is up to adjusting on the fly to keep teams guessing. He didn’t always double LaMarcus Aldridge, but when he did, it usually came at the right time. Against Kawhi Leonard, Donovan mixed up coverages, mostly throwing Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters at him, but also mixing in Kevin Durant from time to time.

But the Thunder also came in with a strategy: Let one guy try to beat you while the offense around him stagnates. That’s never been a strategy against the Spurs because they’ve never had that one alpha scorer that can throw up 35 a night. Instead, they’ve always depended on ball movement to catch teams out of position defensively. But now with Aldridge in the mix and cooking, the Spurs have been put in a position where they have to decide whether to allow Aldridge to continue his reign of terror, or mute him a little to encourage the ball movement that makes their offense so efficient.

2. The (national) emergence of Steven Adams

I hope the Thunder saved a little money from all those years where they didn’t pay the luxury tax, because with every game and Brian Windhorst article that gets published, the price tag for Steven Adams goes up exponentially. I don’t like to look towards the offseason while the team is still in the heat of the playoffs, but the Thunder will have first (and only) dibs on Adams this summer with the salary cap still set to increase in the year after next. Adams doesn’t strike me as a “I’ll let my agent do the negotiations” type of guy. He genuinely seems like he likes it in Oklahoma City and strikes me as a “I’d play for free” kind of guy. But what the hell do I know….I thought the same of Reggie Jackson after his second season.

3. Father Time takes no L’s

In an age when athletes seem to be defying Father Time, it is sobering to know that Father Time has yet to take an L from any player. For every Jaromir Jagr, there’s a Sidney Crosby. For every David Ortiz, there’s a Josh Hamilton. For every Tim Duncan, there’s a Kobe Bryant. But eventually, even the strong succumb to the claws of Father Time. And that time seems to be coming for Tim Duncan…and fast! Against Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, the ageless one appears every bit the 40 years of age he is in this series. In 28 minutes in Game 2, he scored 2 points on 1-8 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds. While the Spurs may not necessarily need his offense, their post defense is struggling mightily with Duncan looking like the tree-locked 3-Eyed Raven in the post. Look in the sky…it’s a bird, it’s a plane. No, it’s another Russell Westbrook to Steven Adams alley-oop dunk!