The Margin: Oklahoma City 109, San Antonio 103
You know the routine: One talking point for each point of the differential.
- Stealing from my own Twitter commentary…Adjustments matter. Scott Brooks waited four quarters too long to adjust his high pick and roll coverage. He eventually brought Kendrick Perkins in from the slaughter, but not before the Thunder found themselves down 0-2. Well, it took Gregg Popovich four quarters too long to play DeJuan Blair instead of Tiago Splitter. The series is now tied 2-2. This is probably the stuff of a standalone post, but Blair is better suited to bother the Thunder. Splitter is an easy cover for OKC. Blair finished +6, but that doesn’t really tell the story. Re-watch the Thunder’s defense as it attempts to account for Blair on the screen and roll.
- Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, and Matt Bonner. Aargh! Two out of three of these players won’t see much playing time until the NBA Finals, when and if. I’ll let you determine which two I have in mind.
- Holy Serge Ibaka. I’m so thankful Manu Ginobili understands regression to the mean. Otherwise, the entire Spurs lockerroom might be discouraged by his 11-11 outing. Hopefully, Ibaka’s performance will trick him into believing he can do that every night. (Historical footnote: the Spurs, Thunder, and Cavs (Lindsey, Presti, and Ferry, I believe) once worked out Serge Ibaka in a private (Spurs alumni) session at Treviso. It was an odd draft for the Spurs. Presti chose Ibaka two picks before the Spurs, and then Kevin Pritchard traded up to grab Nico Batum one pick ahead of San Antonio. The Spurs picked Hill, and later traded him for Kawhi Leonard, Erazem Lorbek, Davis Bertans, and cap relief. I’m still not sure what to make of that draft. The Spurs would have won either way, however.)
- The possession thing: After one quarter, the Spurs were on pace for a 100+ pace game. Then came the second disastrous quarter in as many games. San Antonio finished with 93 possessions. The math doesn’t lie. The Spurs were outscored 29-17 in tonight’s second quarter. San Antonio was outscored 32-17 on Thursday night. The Spurs need to re-think their early second quarter rotation. Of note, starting Ginobili, Neal, Splitter, Green, Diaw at the beginning of the second frame amounted to minus-5. On Thursday, Neal, Splitter, Bonner, Jackson, and Ginobili went minus-7. In both games, the pace bottomed out in the second quarter. My theory says Neal and Splitter are the problems. Neal takes too much time advancing the ball, essentially killing San Antonio’s opportunities at early offense. The Spurs were doing fine with Parker charging ahead or bypassing the pick and roll in favor of early clock isolation. Splitter’s minutes need to go to Blair for more reasons than I can discuss in a Margin, but you’ll have to trust me. Blair is the obvious play. Again, the math doesn’t lie.
- The Spurs’ defense could prove their Achilles heel. It’s greatly improved since the beginning of the season, but Durant carved them up tonight. 13-20. 9-9. Durant was a one man wrecking crew.
- At 20, Kawhi Leonard is a good basketball player. By 23, he could be an All-Star. Three clutch plays tonight. One alert offensive rebound and stick back, two closing minute corner threes. And, so far as a rookie is concerned, he played several terrific defensive possessions on Kevin Durant. Durant still scored, but it was only because his offense is better than even the world’s tightest defensive contest. Leonard did what he could. No complaints.