3-on-3 Gameday Preview: Spurs at Thunder Game 3
We bring in an outsider, someone who may see things that we don’t, to help us preview Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game, Bleacher Report and The New York Times Off The Dribble Blog joins us to answer three questions about tonight’s Spurs-Thunder tilt.
1. Oklahoma City’s Game 2 run to get back in the game: aberration or a sign of things to come?
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: A sign of things to come, if only in the sense that the Thunder have always had that kind of explosive potential. San Antonio is very clearly the superior overall outfit, but that doesn’t mean OKC never had a chance to make games interesting, surge in fits of dominance, or even win a game or three. I wouldn’t count on Oklahoma City to do anything beyond the realm of reasonable expectation (with that reasonable expectation being their competitive play, but eventual loss, in this series), but that doesn’t mean that these kind of runs are indicative of anything dramatic.
Jesse Blanchard, 48 Minutes of Hell: If by a sign of things to come you mean the Thunder will go to that lineup more often, then absolutely, yes. But if the question is will the Thunder run amok as they did at times with that line? Popovich and the Spurs have had a chance to see the game feel and I’m confident they will adjust accordingly.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: I think it was essentially a one game aberration. The Thunder will be strong in Game 3, no doubt, but I would expect Gregg Popovich and Co. to counter what the Thunder threw at them in Game 2. I expect the Thunder’s performance overall to be improved back at home, but those things that worked so well during that second half stretch last game won’t be what elevates them.
2. Do you expect Game 3 to be fast paced or will OKC try to slow it down?
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Fast-paced, I’d expect, if only because the Thunder so rarely make a deliberate effort to slow the game down, and the Spurs have absolutely no incentive to. OKC is at its most dominant when its offensive possessions are short flurries following forced turnovers, meaning that the Thunder essentially have to play both styles: their defensive possessions need to be spent grindng down the Spurs and making calculated gambles, while their offense is best actualized on the run.
Jesse Blanchard, 48MoH: To slow the game down would require the Thunder to have a point guard or big man capable of dictating the pace of the game. They can try. But short of going back to intentionaly fouling Tiago Splitter, I’m not sure they can succeed.
Andrew McNeill, 48MoH: Aaron McGuire did a good job explaining the “up the pace” suggestions and how that plays into the Spurs’ hands. I don’t think Scott Brooks reads 48MoH (if he does: Hi Scott), so I am anticipating the Thunder to try and play fast, maximizing their athleticism. Final results aside, it should be really fun to watch.
3. Is this the game that Tim Duncan takes his turn to dominate?
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Sure? I think he’s perfectly capable of it, though with the way the Spurs’ perimeter players have been performing, I think they’re the more likely choices. Duncan — even in his struggles — is doing his job just fine; Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and the rest of the Spurs’ wings are just better positioned to make a big offensive impact in this series. They do seem to be taking turns, but the flow isn’t right if Duncan isn’t there to draw defenders, make the right passes, prevent penetration, and set great screens. His 18.2 percent shooting in Game 2 may not show it, but as you guys well know, the Spurs don’t roll without the system and its most crucial contributors — Duncan included — playing a huge part. Domination is just a side effect.
Jesse Blanchard, 48MoH: The Spurs have had little need of Duncan’s posts and drives so far, and they might not throughout the series. But if the Thunder go small with Ibaka, it might be on Duncan to settle things down a litte.
Andrew McNeill, 48MoH: I say yes. I think that one adjustment Scott Brooks is going to make in Game 3 is giving less playing time to Kendrick Perkins. If that’s the case, Serge Ibaka will see the floor more for OKC. The Spurs like when Ibaka is matched up on Duncan, so I could see a 23 point, 12 rebound performance in the cards tonight. (Note: If that is actually the stat line that Duncan ends up with, I’m going to Vegas for the weekend and you’re all invited)