How OKC Can Win This Series
*Photo via Getty Images
The Oklahoma City Thunder are two games away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the fourth time in six years. But guess what? So are the San Antonio Spurs.
Game 1 of this series could all but be a wash as the Thunder’s dynamic duo went for a combined 30 points on 33% from the field. But, three games later, Kevin Durant put on a 41-point performance to put his team in position to take the series lead.
No secret here, this is exactly what Oklahoma City needs to win this series. In their two victories of the series, Kevin Durant has shot over 50% (while Russell Westbrook, you know, has been chucking). Yet, the two times OKC has lost in this series, the dynamic duo’s shooting percentage has dipped significantly below 50%.
This means, while Westbrook will certainly get his shots, Durant has to be the mold of consistency for the Thunder to win this series. He must put up big numbers and do that in an efficient fashion, while guarding Kawhi Leonard.
He can handle it, but can his team?
Durant’s Thunder teammates must exhaust most of their energy on the defensive end of the ball in order to win this series. LaMarcus Aldridge put up 38 and 41 points, respectively, in the first two games of this series, while Kawhi went for 31 in another of the Thunder’s losses. Defensive discipline must be strict for the Thunder going forward. Expect to see better rotations and recoveries going forward as the Spurs like to drive and kick, and run the screen and pop with Aldridge.
*Photo via USA Today
Yet, with the 13th ranked defense, the Thunder will have to rely on hustle to create turnovers. Expect Billy Donovan to let Russell Westbrook gamble quite a bit (not that he has a leash on Westbrook) to force the Spurs into errant passes. Also key on the defensive end of the ball will be Steven Adams, who made his prowess known in the haphazard ending in Game 2. His hustle will be significant because the Spurs are most dangerous when they get into the paint and let their big men do their bidding.
Adams, along with Enes Kanter, could be the vein of life on offense for OKC. In Game 4, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan was forced to the bench early due to foul trouble, stealing much of the Spurs thunder under the rim. David West was forced to guard Adams and Kanter, which proved problematic for the undersized forward, allowing them 17 and 11 points, respectively. Going off their victory in Game 4, look forward to the Thunder to work the ball inside to get San Antonio’s big men in early foul trouble.
There’s no doubt San Antonio will come to play at home, in a virtual must win. Game 5 is tonight at 8PM ET on TNT.