There’s something very familiar about the San Antonio Spurs taking a 2-0 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. However, winning 112-77 and looking so dominant through the first two games with big nights from Tony Parker and Danny Green while making Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook look ordinary gives this series a different kind of vibe.
For a very short while in this game, turning out to be one big humiliating blowout, the Thunder were in it. Their defense wasn’t exactly working, but on offense they managed to keep up. Midway through the second quarter they were still ahead, 36-33. However, the Spurs and especially Danny Green, someone you’re simply not allowed to leave open from any kind of range, started hitting tres again. He connected seven times from beyond the arc to score 21 points overall, and was instrumental in that 43-14 run that sent the game into garbage time before we even got to the fourth quarter.
Tony Parker led the way with 22 points, and his ability to drive to the basket and get away from Russell Westbrook through screens and his excellent off the ball movement has been causing a lot of problems for the Thunder, even when their best defensive unit, or the best one they can use without Serge Ibaka, is on the floor. This was a game that exposed the Thunder at their worst when Durant and Westbrook aren’t functioning at a decent offensive level, and it’ll take more than going back home to fix these issues.
The Thunder once again couldn’t get anything from guys like Thabo Sefolosha. The Swiss swingman is their best defender on the perimeter, but without Ibaka, they need a third option to Durant and Westbrook, which they won’t get from both Perkins or Collison. This forces the Thunder to get Sefolosha going, but he has responded with 0-of-9 from the field in this series, and using any other combination with Reggie Jackson or anyone else results in a complete defensive breakdown.
Tim Duncan wasn’t as dominant as in game 1, but still finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds while adding a couple of blocks as he and Tiago Splitter did a great job in keeping the paint clean while the Spurs once again fond too many easy shots with 54 points in the paint. Kawhi Leonard wasn’t sparkling offensively but with help from Green and others he has been making life very difficult for Durant, who has gotten 64 of his 84 offensive touches above the free throw line, close to a four-foot increase in average shot distance this series compared to the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Thunder looked awful. Without the ability to get defensive stops, they had to play too much half court offense. Durant and Westbrook each scored 30 points, combining to shoot 13-of-40 from the field while hardly getting to the line. The Thunder shot only 10% (2-of-20) from three-point range, struggling on catch-and-shoot and also with more difficult shots, as one might expect.
It’s interesting to see such a talented team look so helpless. This wasn’t about effort or wanting it more than someone. The Thunder were outplayed, while their head coach Scott Brooks seems to be losing at every intersection he has some battle of wits with Gregg Popovich. The Thunder were handed a bad deck when Ibaka was pulled because of an injury, but that doesn’t make excuses for this kind of performance. Bad games happen, but they shouldn’t at this level. And losing twice by a combined 52 points makes it seem that this injury, unlike the one to Westbrook or others during the season, might be too difficult for talent to overcome.