Oklahoma City Thunder – Stopping the Streak

Thunder beat Spurs

The Oklahoma City Thunder complete a season sweep of the San Antonio Spurs with a 106-94 win that also ends a 19-game winning streak, but despite some great defense and an aggressive night on offense from both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, it probably won’t be enough to win the top seed in the Western conference.

Kevin Durant kept his 25 points or more streak alive, extending it to 39 games (one less than Jordan now) with 28 points, most of them coming in the second half after feeling a bit troubled by Kawhi Leonard in the first. It became more of an open court type of game, as the Thunder scored 30 points on the fast break, forcing 18 turnovers on the Spurs, which helped Durant get away a bit from the man marking him quite well .

Russell Westbrook was in attack mode all night, jumping into passing lanes and finishing with 4 steals. Westbrook can be an exceptional defender when he plays like this, but often he lets his focus drift somewhere else. This time, especially in the second half as the Thunder outscored the Spurs 58-43, he was too much for Tony Parker to keep up with.

Kendrick Perkins is back, giving 12 minutes. He didn’t do much in them, but there’s no doubt he helps the Thunder’s defense be what it’s meant to be: Clogging the paint with big bodies and having the speed, length and athleticism to react to ball movement like the Spurs have, or at least the slightly calmer version the Spurs presented in the fourth and final game of the series between the teams this season.

And here’s something to add to the bottom line: While the Thunder do look like the better team when they meet, and four wins in the regular season should be enough to prove that, they needed this win a lot more than the Spurs did, and there’s no team that turns it on and off better than the Spurs. They’re still leading the Western conference comfortably enough with a three game lead, which means home court advantage all through the playoffs. Tim Duncan playing 28 minutes, Kawhi Lenoard playing 29 minutes, Tony Parker only 26 minutes; Kevin Durant was 39 minutes on the floor, Serge Ibaka 40 minutes and Russell Westbrook 31. One team wanted this game a lot more than the other, as much of cliche as it might be.

The Leonard – Durant matchup is going to be one to watch when these two teams meet in the playoffs, probably. Leonard held Durant to only 4-of-13 from the field but got into foul trouble, which forced him to sit at the beginning of the third quarter, which really helped Durant play better, going 6-of-9 to score 12 points in the third quarter and finally get comfortable in a game that was difficult for him up to that point.

The Thunder have two extremely talented players who can almost score at will, who are almost unguardable at their best. But the defense will be what wins them a championship, not Durant and Westbrook combining to score 55-60 points a game. The question is if the Spurs will have the intensity needed to make their offensive schemes work when they take a game a little bit more seriously.

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