Entering game 5 of the Western conference semifinals series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, one has to wonder whether the momentum in this series has finally shifted, all because of Kevin Durant finally playing like someone good enough to be an MVP.
The Thunder make it try to seem like it was all about the team, and not him playing like the best player in the league for one night, again.
There’s no individuals in this game. There’s no strictly 1-on-1 matchups in this game. There’s 10 guys on the court. I may guard a guy, or he may guard me, but it’s a whole team trying to stop the ball.
Durant scored 41 points. He was perfect from the field in the fourth quarter, while helping hold Kawhi Leonard on 0 points in the fourth. Russell Westbrook had another horrendous shooting performance. His biggest contribution was stepping aside and letting Durant do what he does better. It’ll remain the smartest thing he does in this series if he manages to overcome his urges to try and show the world he’s just as good.
The Spurs do need to worry. For all of their pre-series advantages, they haven’t been able to recapture their offensive rhythm from the first game. They finished with just 12 assists in game 4. Some teams can live with that, but not the Spurs. Their best basketball comes when the ball doesn’t stop moving and players get open. When it becomes a game of post ups, one on ones and taking contested shots, suddenly they don’t seem so special anymore. And the Thunder have been able to put them in that uncomfortable position, not letting the doom & gloom predictions following the first game in the series drag them down.
Guys wanted the ball and just didn’t make shots. We never really got into a good offensive rhythm but we kept making runs. Guys kept making plays at certain times but we had a lot of open looks that we didn’t make. If you don’t make shots, the assists don’t come.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who was huge in the first two games of the series but has struggled with 16-for-39 from the field in the last two games, thinks it’s all a matter of making shots. The Thunder live by that philosophy, and actually think that they haven’t changed that much defensively. They’ve simply been able to do a better job of making it uncomfortable for the Spurs, especially on Aldridge and Leonard, who without them, San Antonio really find it difficult to put up points.
But maybe the blame has to go to Gregg Popovich, for going with David West and not Boris Diaw in the final quarter, thinking too much about defense and not about how to expose the lineup that included Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters. Maybe Popovich will learn from that mistake. He needs to hope that his opportunity to rectify his lineup decisions isn’t coming a little bit too late, as the Thunder hope to thrive on this newly found momentum.