The Margin: San Antonio Spurs 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 98
The Margin is a quick one topic per difference in the final score, a format originated by Rob Mahoney over at the Dallas Mavericks TrueHoop blog The Two Man Game, borrowed initially by our own Graydon Gordian, and written by me for this edition. Since a last second, irrelevant James Harden three-pointer trimmed the number of points at my disposal, I will try to cram as much as I can into these three bullets:
- Oklahoma City certainly has an explosive trio in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Beyond them, however, there is little offensive depth and almost no shot creating to speak of. Even with their top three players in the game, the Thunder often field lineups with two complete non-factors on offense. The most obvious advantage is that the Spurs can clog the driving lanes that Westbrook (7-21, 17 points) and Harden (7-17, 19 points) thrive on. The underrated one is with a stationary matchup to defend the Spurs can finally play sharpshooter Gary Neal extended minutes alongside Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the clutch. In Game 1 Neal scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on 3-4 shots and playing almost the entirety of a 39-point fourth quarter.
- In that fourth quarter the San Antonio Spurs attempted 18 free throws. Prior to that they managed a meager seven for the game. Some of the credit belongs to backup center Tiago Splitter for drawing two quick fouls to start the fourth. Though his free throw shooting has dropped of a cliff in these playoffs, his ability to draw fouls still remains an overall plus, especially when it helps get the Spurs in the bonus early–at which time Manu Ginobili feasts on drawing fouls and getting free throws (five fourth quarter attempts).
- His role has lessened since his first stint here in San Antonio, his numbers declining, but Stephen Jackson still has some valuable contributions left for this team. Gregg Popovich and his teammates have an unwavering trust in Jackson, as evident by him playing the entirety of the fourth quarter–all of it guarding the NBA’s most potent scorer. In Game 1 Jackson validated that trust, doing an admirable job in denying Durant easy catches and holding him up long enough for help defenders to arrive. That he hit a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter just adds to the mythology of Stephen Jackson in San Antonio.