By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
SAN ANTONIO – Kevin Durant scored 28 points and made 10 of his 19 shots in Game 1. Four of his seven 3-point attempts were good. He pulled down nine rebounds and had five assists.
He needs to get to the free-throw line more than just four times, including only once after the first quarter. He said he plans to be more aggressive in tonight’s Game 2 (9 p.m. ET, TNT) to help make that happen.
Assuming the Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t going to magically figure out a way to protect the rim in Serge Ibaka‘s absence with their current personnel, and with so little time to work on schemes against the mighty San Antonio Spurs, Durant needs to make an impact on the defensive end. He can help do that by improving in two key areas: Steals and turnovers.
Durant had no steals in Game 1 and turned it over a game-high six times. Obviously, steals can lead to fast breaks and decreasing turnovers can help prevent them the other way.
We’ve seen Durant try to defend bigger bodies at times this postseason like Marc Gasol, Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan in Game 1. It’s not his strong suit. He’s most effective when he’s utilizing use his ridiculously long limbs to disrupt passing lanes and pressure the point of attack.
When he, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson combine their length and quickness, they can create tipped passes and opportunities to break out in transition for easy baskets.
In Game 1, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili had it far too easy to do whatever they pleased. Each had just one turnover. The Spurs had just 10 turnovers and they outscored Oklahoma City 16-11 in fast-break points.
“We can get there, we can guard these guys, and we just have to do it,” Durant said. “We have to be engaged for initially the first 10 seconds of the shot clock because that’s where they get most of their points. We have to be solid throughout the whole shot clock, as well. They’re a deep team. They have a lot of guys that can come in and score quickly for them, but we’ve got a lot of good defenders, as well.”
OKC is a high turnover team and as long as Durant and Westbrook are playing, turnovers are going to be part of it. Limiting wasteful possessions is going to be critical against a team that was able to score virtually at will during Game 1.
Durant has 21 turnovers and just three steals in the last four games (he does have six blocks in that time).
“We’ve got athletic guys here, and we have to do it,” Durant said of clamping down defensively. “In order for us to get where we want to get to, we’ve got to do smart things like that.”
It starts with the MVP.