Game 2 Ways to Win: Take Two for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Ronald Martinez

The Thunder need to forget about Game 1, except for the fact that interior defense may cost them the series. Here are Game 2's Ways to Win.

I don't know if I will ever accept that Game 1 loss. It was heart-breaking, scary, and left you saying "uh-oh." After every drive and score in the paint for the San Antonio Spurs, I replayed that play in my mind but with Serge Ibaka in the game. It was my way of coping.

The Spurs and their genius coach did nothing wrong in Game 1. They shot extremely well, played tight defense and exploited the Oklahoma City Thunder's weakness, which was interior defense. The Spurs tallied up 66 points in the paint which was the knife in the team's metaphorical heart. When Scott Brooks went with a small ball lineup with Kevin Durant at the 5, the Spurs bullied them inside. In no scenario did the Thunder have a chance against the Spurs rim-targeting offense, but I think I know some ways they do. It is obvious, after Game 1, that the Thunder have some things to work on. Here are Game 2's Ways to Win.

1) Defend the paint!

Could have seen that one coming, huh?

The Spurs will continue to push the ball inside until the Thunder make some adjustments. It's not like Serge Ibaka is the only player who knows how to protect the rim. It seemed like the Thunder forgot how to play help defense or even position themselves. They were easily beaten off the dribble and were physically bullied. What I didn't understand with Scott Brooks was his decision to go with the small lineup. Yes, it does help on offense by forcing a center to guard small forward, but on defense, the mismatches were like Muggsy Bogues on Yao Ming (I know this is a dramatic exaggeration but stay with me).

Also, Steven Adams only got 17 minutes of time after playing 40 minutes against the Clippers to record a double-double. In the postseason, Adams has been huge for the Thunder. He is forcing his opponent to shoot 42.9 percent at the rim, which is an upgrade from whatever the Spurs shot at the rim (I don't even want to know). What Brooks must highlight before Game 2 is the importance of help defense.

Marco_bellinelli_drive_medium

Wrong: Marco Bellinelli beats his man off the dribble and sees an open lane. No help, no Serge Ibaka. He finishes the layup with no problem.

Correct: Steven Adams gives Tim Duncan space but not enough to give Tim an open shot. Marco Bellinelli drives but gets stopped by Steven Adams.

Adams could play an important role in the interior defense this series, but it is a matter of whether Brooks realizes that he needs him or not. As for Brooks, stick with the bigger lineup... PLEASE!!!

2) Win in transition

The Thunder's average age is 26 as opposed to the Spurs' 28. I know the difference is not much but it is enough to make an impact. The Thunder are loaded with quick and agile players: Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson, etc.  All run the fast break well. Westbrook is one of the fastest guys in the NBA. If he can beat Tony Parker in the fast break, he should be able to take control of the game. Even Steven Adams, who is extremely athletic, could very easily beat Tim Duncan by simply out running him.

In Game 1, the Thunder only scored 11 points off of transition. The Spurs scored 16. The Thunder need to exploit the old age of some of the Spurs players and beat them through fast breaks and with quick moves. Since the Spurs found a way to exploit the Thunder's weakness, why not exploit their age?

Wrong: The Thunder settle for half-court offense, which is not their speciality. They get crushed once again.

Correct: Thunder beat the Spurs by running the floor and split the away part of the series.

***

I would say to have Steven Adams get under Tim Duncan or any other Spurs player's skin but nearly every Spursplayer is cool and composed, especially the Big Fundamental. Overall, the Thunder need to focus on defense, but offense will win the game for them. It is just whether they play the right style of offense. The Thunder need this win... badly.

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