SAN ANTONIO — Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference in the playoffs. Not that Steven Adams has very often been called a little thing.
But as the Spurs and Thunder gear up for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, OKC has been able to square the series at 2-2 thanks to a tweak that involves the 7-foot, 255-pounder from New Zealand. He’s actually guarding future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan less.
It’s a strategic move that would have been unthinkable at any other time in Duncan’s career. But now 40, he is less an offensive threat and so Adams can help out on the Spurs’ new big gun LaMarcus Aldridge.
It was Aldridge who burned the Thunder for an average of 39.5 points and 33-for-44 (75 percent) shooting in the first two games of the series. But since the Thunder made the decision to make less of an effort on Duncan, Aldridge has dropped off in the last two games to averaging 22 points on 16 of 39 (41 percent) shooting.
“He’s just missing shots,” Adams said coyly. “That’s all it is. We’re sticking to the same principles. He’s just missing shots, thankfully.”
But eventually Adams admitted that he’s making a bit more of an effort to throw Aldridge off his rhythm.
“Try to just mess up where he catches the ball,” Adams said. “Just catch it out of his hot spots.”
With Adams able to slide off Duncan and be an extra obstacle for Aldridge, it allows Thunder coach Billy Donovan to avoid an all-out double-team, which would allow the Spurs’ bevy of perimeter shooters more open looks. The made a playoff low of just two 3-pointers in Game 4 and were 2-for-12 from behind the arc.
Little things that make a big difference.