Spurs’ defense tightens its grip

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: A slow-motion look at the best plays from¬†each conference finals’ Game 2

SAN ANTONIO – When the passes are crisp, the ball is moving and the shots are falling, it is easy to become hypnotized and think the Spurs are all about a smooth offense that should be set to waltz music.

But there’s a little head-banging defense that helps them rock and roll, too.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may have finished Game 2 with their playoff low of 15 points apiece because they sat out the entire fourth quarter. But when they were part of the 112-77 massacre in the Western Conference finals, the Thunder top guns were a combined 13-for-40 from the field shooting.

Through the first two games, OKC has connected on just 14-of-47 shots (29.8 percent) from behind the 3-point line and hasn’t been able to develop any kind of offensive rhythm that isn’t just Durant or Westbrook going 1-on-1.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich isn’t professing to have solved the dilemma of stopping the Thunder permanently.

“I’m sure at times we guarded them well and I’m sure that at times they had open shots that they didn’t make,” he said.

Knowing that OKC doesn’t have Serge Ibaka as a third option in its offense, the Spurs have been able to play more aggressively on Durant and Westbrook, closing out faster on jump shots and contesting drives to the basket.

After Kawhi Leonard handled the lion’s share of the defensive assignment on Durant in the series opener, he got into early foul trouble and played just under 16 minutes in Game 2.

Danny Green and Manu Ginobili stepped into the breach for the most part, while Marco Belinelli also got a few trips down the floor on Durant.

“First Marco took Durant, then I came in,” Ginobili said. “Of course, we got worried because Kawhi is our designated defender on him. Besides that, even if he wasn’t our designated, he’s a huge part of what we do and we need him on the court.”

It certainly helps when the Thunder are starting games with a lineup that might as well be the equivalent of a one-armed juggler. The combination of Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison scored just five points in Game 1 and came back with a worse output in Game 2 (four points).

“You’re not going to stop (Durant and Westbrook),” said Spurs point guard Tony Parker. “We know they’re going to keep being aggressive and they’re going to score some points. So far, we’re doing a pretty good job. I think we can do better. It’s going to be harder to stop them at home.”

The Spurs had the No. 3-rated defense in the league during the regular season, giving up just 102.4 points per 100 possessions. But Green said the Spurs still needed to turn up the level of energy and aggressiveness after built a 36-33 lead about four minutes deep into the second quarter of Game 2.

“They were doing pretty much everything they wanted, the things that we didn’t want them to do in the first quarter,” Green said. “We changed some things, tried to show them different looks and they started missing shots.

“We started contesting harder, being more aggressive and trying to limit them to one shot, not to let them get second chances and offensive rebounds.”

Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan also ramped up their protection of the basket, blocking five shots in Game 2 and going over others.

In two games, the Thunder have made only 72-of-169 shots (42.6 percent) in the series.

“Those guys can score the ball so easily,” Leonard said. “So holding them under 50 percent is a great job.”

17 Comments

  1. okc2014 says:

    Go Russell Westbrook! Never change your game!

  2. dublin1968 says:

    sweepppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

  3. 16going417 says:

    Ibaka out for the season and now listed as day to day. It’s a miracle LOL……… Go Spurs!!!!

  4. KingdomMan says:

    Of course Russ playing like Kobe, getting rid of Harden and Serge injured helps the Spurs cause…

  5. KingdomMan says:

    The hub of the team is and always has been Tim Duncan. In my mind, he’s 5x the player Kobe is. Except for the being the all time leader in depressed, unhappy & suicidal team mates…Tim has done more with much much less. Whom do you think Shaq would like to play with… 38 years old and STILL playing on an elite level, there is NO competition.

  6. Whyuaskin says:

    Spurs make it past shorthanded Okc, the east presents little or no resistance, Indy in 4 Miami in 5

  7. elie21 says:

    hoping the spurs close it out in 5 to rest and recover for a tough finals rematch

    ring #5 go spurs go

  8. tony says:

    Barkley said that RW should learn how to play point guard and not shooting guard. He’s right because OKC was doing ok in the second quarter. They start slipping after RW start missing the next 9 out 10 shots and turn over 3 times

    • mee(a)t says:

      OKC weren’t doing that well, the spurs just missed open shots…but that dramatically around the 33-34 mark

    • 36yrfan says:

      How many times do people have to see RW doin’ his best MJ impression like he is still on the playground or playing street ball……He is Supposed to be the one who distributes the ball to insure the offense gets into a rhythm ……..but his main thing is running to the basket(semi-out of control 1/2 the time) to get his layup……. while the mvp !! of the league and the ‘Other’ THREE !!! players on his TEAM are reduced to spectators—and rebounders when he misses…. and that is ALOT lately….so , Sure , play him as the 2 —- I guarantee he will score more than Thabo……which isn’t sayin’ much…. I think his Best role would be coming off the bench (like Manu or Crawford) and Finishing a game but NOT staring it….

  9. yehbill says:

    Gotta give the Heat the underhand, you mean, for giving Paul George a concussion.

    • 36yrfan says:

      ….yup…that was dirtball cheap……watch it slow motion and try to believe it was NOT intentional…….see with your OWN eyes and don’t listen to the talking heads or dwade himself…… Also That forearm shiver that Perkins put on Tiago was premeditated and A F! foul….. so for them to go over to the replay and come back with a ‘common’ foul is a JOKE…….. If it had been a ‘darling’ that got elbowed there would have been an ‘ejection’ AND a suspension…..so the double-standard is alive and well…….PS: watch that one in slow motion as well to get the full effect ……

  10. okcDoke2014 says:

    Good D will continue but Spurs will only split next two games and close it out in game 5. Got give upper hand to Heat but want Pacers