Oklahoma City Thunder, Winning Streak Killers

Tabo Sefolosha had what was probably the biggest game of his postseason career, scoring 19 points and adding 6 steals while annihilating both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, setting the tone for the Thunder’s defense in their Game 3 win over the San Antonio Spurs, a resounding 102-82.

Everything that the Spurs did right in Game 2 wasn’t going to happen again. The Thunder came out aggressive, starting 8-0, and despite losing the lead pretty quickly, it wasn’t because of bad defense. They attacked the Pick n’ Rolls while forcing Tim Duncan to try and score on his own, which hasn’t been working well for him against the long arms of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.

In general, it was more about the Thunder’s role players stepping up – Sefolosha getting 37 minutes and simply destroying the Spurs with his defense and hitting 4-10 from beyond the arc; Serge Ibaka was left open again and again to hit mid range jumpers, something the Spurs relied on him missing in the first two games. He finished with 14 points and 3 blocks.

Role players play better at home, thriving on the crowd’s energy. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden totaled for only 47 points, their lowest production of the postseason. But defense won this game. The Thunder scored just like they have in the first two games. Stopping the Spurs at 82 after 20 straight wins was the key.

For San Antonio, Parker and Ginobili not managing to run the game successfully was a killer to their offense, which was nothing like the first two games. No motion, not enough screens and not enough stops on defense to create better transition opportunities. Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the way with 16 points each, but the Spurs shot 39.5% from the field, with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combining for 6-20.

We have a series again. Maybe it was feeling comfortable at home (now 6-0), but maybe it was just Scott Brooks making the right kind of adjustments and getting his players in the right mindset. Their great defense allowed them to attack at a higher pace and not settle for jumpers after getting stuck in their half court offense. Russell Westbrook was still bad in running the game and his decisions on offense, but once the game opened up, his defense allowed him to feel more comfortably offensively.

Now it’s Popovich’s turn to make the adjustments, and find a way to get Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker going again. The Spurs can’t allow themselves to have their two best players and playmakers be shut out and dominated like that again. A 2-0 start looks light years away all of a sudden.

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