What to say, what to say? In fact, I won't say anything. This game was legit, and everybody who's reading this article knows what's up. Let's just talk turkey.
Stephen Jackson is really clutch. There's a reason he was a captain of the We Believe Warriors, and that he was able to knock down 6 of 7 threes tonight. He's been the most successful defender of Kevin Durant so far during the playoffs, and he's hit a staggering 68% of the threes he's taken in this series. Despite his boneheadedness while playing in the doledrums of the east, this man is still one of the upper tier scorers of this league, an excellent defender, and someone with some incredible ice in his veins. Not convinced? Consider that KD didn't take a single shot beyond 5:13 to go in the fourth, and that he didn't make a single field goal in the fourth.
Russell Westbrook finally had a good game. I know that he's had good performances in spots in the past, and that he had a whopping 5 turnovers tonight. But I really felt that Westbrook was the scorer we all wanted him to be. He didn't take too many shots. Sure, the ones that he did take were a bit ballsy, but he was more willing to let other guys run the plays and work off-ball.
The Thunder can get sucked up into the chaos. During the second quarter, it didn't look like the Thunder were running plays at all. Our stars tried soloing it by mindlessly charging into the paint, but despite all of the offensive rebounds, nothing ever seemed to get done. On a couple of occasions, I saw Derek Fisher calling for the ball because he wanted to set up a play, but he'd get totally ignored and the Thunder would end up with a bad possession. I feel like if they could have had a more controlled attack early on, things wouldn't have gotten so out of hand.
Below: The Thunder Failing Defensively, The Spurs Forgetting Team Play, Fisher and Sefolosha With Great Nights, KD Playing 48 Minutes, Awards!
Despite the win, I still feel like the Thunder failed defensively tonight. I know, the Spurs missed some key shots down the stretch. But when they missed three straight mostly open shots on one possession, there's no way you can construe that as great defense from the Thunder. All of the Spurs besides Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson straight up choked. They missed shots they were hitting all year, and the Thunder's great transition offense made them pay for it dearly.
The Spurs forgot team play. Tonight, their scoring revolved around their big three, with Stephen Jackson emerging as a late X-Factor. That would be normal fare for the Thunder, but at this point in the career of Ginobili and Duncan, they simply don't have the talent level needed to lead their team through a playoff game alone. Putting that fact aside, the Spurs have always relied on their great role players for scoring, rather than just defense and distribution. But Neal and Leonard never got anything going, and everyone else was borderline irrelevant. No real opportunities whatsoever.
Thabo Sefolosha may be the most hesitant player in the league, but when he needs to step up, the dude's got game. Picture this. Manu Ginobili just hit a crushing three in the third quarter to send his team up 18. The Spurs were flying high, and the Thunder looked helpless. But Thabo had the ball at the top of the key, and we saw him do something incredible. With the smaller Gary Neal guarding him, he pulled off a stylish crossover and sunk a jumper right in his face. It's something I'm accustomed to seeing Kevin Durant doing, but watching Sefolosha throw up that shot put me in a state of absolute shock. As if that wasn't enough, he hit a huge layup in transition during the big third quarter run, and got to his spot in the corner to knock down a critical three a few plays later.
I might have to begrudgingly accept Derek Fisher's value. He's not especially valuable defensively, but he's a smart player, and knows where to be at the right times. And man, can that guy shoot. Despite Sefolosha's nice play tonight, I'd have a hard time saying that he could have hit that crucial three and bank shot late in the game. I doubt he would have had the skill necessary. Sure, Fisher may kill us sometimes, but if he can hit shots like this when we really need him to, then he may have no been such a bad acquisition after all. He's pretty much the Robert Horry of this Thunder team.
Kevin Durant played 48 minutes. Sure, he was kind of a offensive non-factor late in the game, but he was a really efficient scorer, and he got us some really essential rebounds down the stretch. I wouldn't necessarily like to see him play 48 minutes every game, but it was a nice show of strength.