At halftime, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge had more points than the entire Oklahoma City Thunder. The San Antonio Spurs enjoyed a blowout victory to open the conference semifinals in the Western conference. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had the same faces we’ve gotten used to seeing from them at the end of each playoff run, at a different stage each time.
Everything the book says about the problems the Thunder have showed in the game 1 loss. Their inability to do something creative on offense. The defensive limitations of both their superstars. The ease in which LaMarcus Aldridge toyed with the Thunder’s frontcourt. The ability of both Danny Green and Leonard to make Durant and Westbrook’s lives a living hell for the 30’ish minute they spent on the court before Billy Donovan had enough. And this was just the first game.
At the end of it, Durant, Westbrook and Donovan didn’t have anything new to tell us. The usual talk about making shots, effort, focus, getting outplayed. Durant and Westbrook especially see the media as their enemy. As if they treat them differently than anyone else in the NBA who is considered a star. This is what happens to them in Oklahoma City. Imagine them in New York or Philadelphia. But their animosity to the media isn’t the important thing. Just an aftershock of the demolition they went through.
The Spurs had a 43-20 lead at the end of the first quarter. They were up 73-40 at halftime. They shot 60.7% from the field, 60% from beyond the arc while holding the Thunder to 41.2% from the field and 26.1% from three. Westbrook shot 5-for-19 from the field. Durant was 6-for-15. Leonard and Aldridge finished with 45 points in the first half alone. The Spurs didn’t even use Leonard on Durant except for three possessions. Leonard choked Westbrook into an awful (but not surprising) performance, while Durant struggled with others, although he did go o-for-3 in the three possessions he had with Leonard.
Aldridge deserves a little bit of talk here too. He scored 38 points in the kind of game he was brought over for. Comparisons to a younger Tim Duncan don’t really matter. What matters is that Aldridge, who has never gone past the conference semifinals, seems to have his choice of shots or play to make no matter who is guarding him. The mismatches for the Thunder don’t start with him, but the Spurs are pushing that weak spot on almost every possession, until they achieve submission.
Where do the Thunder go from here? This isn’t over obviously. Only 1-0, and one game doesn’t affect the other one by that much. However, without a solution on defense and especially a much smarter effort (Actual effort isn’t questioned here) from players like Westbrook and Durant (but not just them), this isn’t going to end well, and from talk of possibly upsetting the Spurs and Warriors en route to a championship, we’ll be talking about which team gets to sign Durant in the offseason.