Whatever the Oklahoma City Thunder do in game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs, home court advantage is no longer on their side. But the difference between winning and losing is the difference between still having something to play for and heading into the next game knowing it’s the end.
The Thunder managed to blow early and late leads in game 3, deleting all the great work achieved by them in their road win, and their defensive success in disrupting the Spurs’ rhythm, once again shooting poorly (43.4% from the field), getting almost nothing from their bench and completely relying on the offense of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge (Tony Parker was actually helpful this time). Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili? The end has never been nearer for them.
But the Thunder continue to be bitten by the same bug. All the talk about working harder, matching physicality and changing their offense during the season under Billy Donovan has gone to waste. This is the same team, that lives and dies on how well Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is shooting on that day. Durant finished with 26 points in the game, but one has to wonder why maybe the most talented offensive player in the league keeps letting Westbrook take over games. Westbrook might be more capable than Durant when it comes to filling up box scores, but he’s a disaster in close games, and when he’s having a bad shooting game from the start, there’s no one to pull him out of it.
Westbrook finished with 31 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. However, he turned the ball over five times and shot 10-for-31 from the field. He had a crucial turnover with the game on the line, which isn’t new, and in general, it was one of those games in which he did more harm than good, also taking 10 three pointers, making three of them. But it’s not just numbers with Westbrook. His overall decision making and execution in these situation continues to be abysmal, and no matter how much he improves or matures, it’s a thing that won’t go away.
On the other side there are the Spurs. A team with a fantastic defense, and two of the quietest superstars the NBA has seen. Leonard finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds, keeping up the form that probably puts him on the top of the performers list in this postseason. Aldridge felt uncomfortable for the first time in this series, shooting 8-for-21, and still managed 24 points. Parker had 19 points, which pretty sums up San Antonio’s entire offensive contributions.
How do the Thunder change what’s going on? One might say this series is simply a bad bounce or big play either way. Oklahoma City have found a way to make the Spurs stutter offensively. However, until they find a way to make their own offense avoid incomprehensible mistakes in the final minutes, it’ll continue to feel like the Spurs are simply biding their time before they completely take control and brush away the Thunder from this postseason.