This was the kind of offensive display the San Antonio Spurs were hoping to get against a weakened Oklahoma City Thunder defense, helping Tim Duncan early on and Manu Ginobili later in game 1 to dominate and find points with ease in a dominating 122-105 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals over a team that has only one lineup that works defensively and a Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook duo that need plenty of help.
It was easy to see just how difficult it was for the Thunder to protect the rim, and with Ibaka gone, it had a ripple effect on all their other defensive specialties, being unable to crowd the paint and get out quickly to stop Spurs shooters from sinking open jump shots. After leading 5-4, the Thunder didn’t lead again until late in the third quarter (78-77). They allowed 66 points in the paint while resorting mainly to jump shots themselves, giving up their worst defensive efficiency of the season at 128.4 points per 100 possessions with the Spurs shooting a 62.4 effective field goal percentage.
Tim Duncan led the way with 27 points, having no problems scoring on Kendrick Perkins early on. Things got more difficult in the second half with Perkins and Nick Collison doing a much better job as the Thunder managed to come back from a 15 point deficit through some excellent Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook shooting and mostly a much improved defense while the Spurs were struggling to make plays and move the ball again. However, Scott Brooks giving up on his big lineup and going small killed that momentum, and pretty much ended the game for the Thunder.
From the point of leading 78-77 with 4:43 left in the third quarter, the Spurs went on a 45-27 run as Brooks completely botched things with a lineup that included Kevin Durant as the big man. The Spurs easily found mismatches against Caron Butler, Derek Fisher, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson, and once again the lanes were open for cutting movement and trailers, while Manu Ginobili added the spark with some difficult shots.
The game slipped away from them, and the Thunder resorted to their version of bad offense – shooting contested jumpers, and even missing the open shots, like Thabo Sefolosha who was 0-for-4 in the game and played only 16 minutes, his defense not being enough to stay on the floor even though the Thunder were better during his minutes on the court. The Thunder took 24 shots during the final 16:30 of the game, 20 of them being jump shots.
Tim Duncan led the way with 27 points and 7 rebounds, enjoying not having Serge Ibaka to hover around him. Manu Ginobili scored 18 points off the bench with some huge 3’s and he was helped with 16 points by Kawhi Leonard and a huge night from Danny Green, missing only one of his seven field goal attempts and playing incredible defense against anyone he had to cover, allowing only 2-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-6 for Russell Westbrook and 0-of-3 for Kevin Durant. Tony Parker scored 14 points, struggling on defense when Westbrook was in the right mindset during the third quarter, but giving him plenty of trouble on his own.
Kevin Durant scored 28 points and Westbrook finished with 25. Both players had their ups and downs during the game, but despite the help from Derek Fisher (16 points) and Reggie Jackson (13 points), the Thunder needed more. They didn’t get anyone to make up for the points lost with Ibaka off the court, as Collison took only three shots, while Perkins, scoring 5 points but getting into foul trouble, has never been an offensive factor, just like Steven Adams.
Time for adjustments begins now. The Spurs had a very strong finish and should be pleased with how both their offense and defense executed for most of the game. They pressed in the right moments and moved the ball like you expect a Popovich team to do it. The Thunder seemed to run out of ideas except for just one lineup that worked for them, and it isn’t the kind that can stay on the court for too long. The pressure is on Scott Brooks to do what many don’t believe he can, or simply hoping Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook become unstoppable.