The Oklahoma City Thunder are back at home and while staring down the barrel of some sub-par performances and a 0-2 series deficit, you just know they are not done yet and will come out firing.
It looms as the biggest game of the season for the Thunder. If they can manufacture a victory, it will boost their confidence, get them back in the series with another game to come at home and keep their season alive. A loss would do the complete opposite.
Through stages of both games so far, the Thunder have looked competitive. They have moved the ball well, made shots and defended well – but only in spurts. Every time they get too close, the Spurs seem to be able to put the foot on the accelerator and leave OKC in their dust. The loss of Serge Ibaka has been visible on both ends of the floor, but it is on the rest of the Thunder team and staff to make the adjustments and find a way to get the Thunder a win.
We will know just how badly the Thunder want this win when the starting lineups are announced. It seems pretty clear that something has to change and the starting lineup might be the first thing altered. Thabo Sefolosha has fought admirably, but he just can’t seem to slow Tony Parker and is a liability on the offensive end. Scott Brooks could shock us all and start someone else in his place.
Rookie Steven Adams has been superb in the minutes he has played and while he is still very raw and very young, he is equipping himself well out on the floor. Somehow, some way, the Thunder have to be able to slow the Spurs in the paint. Without Ibaka, you aren’t going to stop them completely, but you need to be able to limit them – and so far that hasn’t happened.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had relatively poor Game 2 performances and will be wanting to bounce back. Westbrook especially had a very poor shooting night compounded by poor decisions. He will have left that game behind and will be trying to recapture the form that saw him dominate the second round of the playoffs. Durant will want to take the Thunder, put them on his back and lead them to a win. It is expected of MVP’s and Durant is the latest to hold the mantle. If he can shake loose and get it going, he could drop 40 and give the Thunder a great chance at a win.
Now that the Spurs have a handy lead, the urgency might not be as great. Although they have been beaten by the Thunder from this exact position, they would still be fairly confident of taking out the series and might even already have one eye on the NBA Finals. With Tony Parker having a lingering injury issue and with an aging roster, the Spurs might not have the energy or killer instinct to feel the need to run the Thunder out of the building. If OKC can start well and grab a bit of a lead, the Spurs may just shut some people down and manage them for Game 4.
Whatever happens, we need to see some key things from the Thunder in this pivotal game. Limit turnovers, defend in the paint and at the three point line, move the ball on offense and make the most of their opportunities. If they can make these adjustments, if they can find their feet in front of their home crowd, they can win this game and claw their way back into the series.
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder