The Oklahoma City Thunder are down 0-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals but get a chance to bounce back in the series at home tonight for Game 3.
The Thunder have always played much better at home than on the road and that has a lot to do with how great their fans and home crowd always is.
The Thunder can use all the help they can get as they are up against the hottest team in the NBA right now. The Spurs haven’t lost since April 11 and have won 20 straight games, tied for the third longest streak in NBA history.
The Spurs traditionally made their championship runs behind a great defense but this year it’s their offense that is leading the way, especially in this series. The Spurs have shot 60.2 percent in the last five quarters of this series and the Thunder haven’t had an answer for them.
OKC showed a small glimpse of how to stop the Spurs’ offense as they furiously tried to come back in the fourth quarter of Game 2. The Thunder played a small lineup switching every pick-and-roll and forced a lot of deflections and tougher shots than the Spurs were used to.
The Thunder will have to bottle up that energy for most of a game if they want to slow down the Spurs’ offense.
But Scott Brooks elected to play Derek Fisher with that small lineup instead of Thabo Sefolosha and it really held the Thunder back. If Fisher continues to get bigger minutes than Sefolosha, the Thunder will continue to not reach their potential in this series.
The other worry is that the Thunder big three played pretty well in Game 2 and they still lost. Kevin Durant scored 31, Russell Westbrook scored 27 and James Harden scored 30. It wasn’t enough.
Durant has put up huge overall numbers but has been quiet in the fourth quarter scoring just a total of 10 points so far in the two games. He’s not LeBron so it’s not that big of a deal though.
Westbrook will be the key in Game 3 though as Durant and Harden have figured out how to be efficient, Westbrook has yet to.
Westbrook will need to be aggressive taking his midrange pull-up jump shot. He hasn’t been hitting it so far in this series and it has turned him into the reckless rim attacker that OKC doesn’t want to see.
The Spurs are defending the pick-and-roll in a way to allow for the midrange pull-up to be available too. Harden adjusted in Game 2 and it resulted in a big game for him. Westbrook needs to do the same to help the Thunder turn the tide in this series.
The Thunder will continue to play small and do so with Serge Ibaka. That was an adjustment in Game 2 that was obvious and worked better than when the Thunder went small in Game 1 with Kendrick Perkins instead of Ibaka.
Perkins is not made for this series. The Thunder traded for him last year to get by the Lakers. Against the Spurs, the Thunder would be better off with Jeff Green since they are playing small ball.
Perkins is the Thunder’s best post defender but the Spurs aren’t even posting up. They’ve taken just seven shots on post-ups so far in this series and made only two.
The Spurs are doing almost nothing but pick-and-rolls and that’s where Perkins struggles because he doesn’t move well laterally. The Spurs have made 23-of-37 shots in the pick-and-roll in the first two games. Ibaka and Nick Collison do a much better job than Perkins defending those plays.
Tony Parker torched the Thunder in the pick-and-roll in Game 2 scoring 34 points on 16-for-21 shooting.
The Thunder have too slowly been making adjustments in this series and that’s part of why they are down 0-2. Coming back home should help but they need a complete game every night to comeback in this series.
The Thunder can’t afford to take a step back on offense and need to play better defensively. It wasn’t going to be easy to beat the Spurs but now it feels closer to impossible.
Topics: Derek Fisher, Game 3, James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, NBA Playoffs, Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook, San Antonio Spurs, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Tony Parker, Western Conference Finals