In game 1, the Oklahoma City Thunder surrendered to the San Antonio Spurs with a deficit of 17 points. The Spurs scored 66 points in the Thunder paint, which shows how valuable Ibaka is for the Thunder. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 52 points, 12 assists, and 14 rebounds respectively.
The Thunder performance in game 1 was very poor. Matter of fact, I didn’t expect it to be that bad. Scott Brooks failed in terms of finding a solution to stop the Spurs or at least ending the domination of the Spurs inside the paint. Moreover, he tried many several lineups that might fit against the Spurs, such as playing Kevin Durant at the center and power forward position. In the third quarter, the Thunder were able to make a comeback. Eventually, they led the game by 4 points, but the Spurs managed to quickly break down the Thunder defense again. At that moment, Brooks made a few bad decisions. One of those was resting Westbrook more than enough, especially considering that Durant and him are probably the only players lifting off the Thunder.
The issue isn’t about playing without your best defensive player in the game anymore. Since the beginning of the game, the Thunder players did not have confidence that they could beat a flawless team. Not to mention the fact that they're being coached under the coach of the year and most likely the greatest coach of all time. The Thunder did not play any good defense during the entire game, except in the 8 minutes of the third quarter in which they made the comeback. In fact, the Thunder had several opportunities in terms of resisting, but they did not take an advantage of those opportunities. We have seen a lack of help defense down the paint. When Durant played at the Center/Forward position, the players did not help him defending the opponent down the rim. There were some moments where guards defended players who play at the center/power-forward position, and we didn’t see any helping in the defense. Besides that, even when the Spurs players attacked the rim, Perkins, Adams, and Collison did not sag-off to help defending the attacker.
Offensively, the ball was mostly with Durant and Westbrook, which is a huge mistake. Because without Ibaka, Popvich tends to focus on increasing the pressure on those players. I did not see the ball being moved to role players such as Adams, Jackson, Butler, Lamb, Jones, Collison, and Fisher. The aspect of teamwork was absolutely absent. Although, Fisher had 16 points as he was 4 out of 6 from behind the arc. Fisher's performance from the 3-point line was outstanding, but what if Fisher doesn’t get lucky in game 2? Does that mean the performance will be worse?
What can the Thunder do in order to come out strong in game 2? First of all, I know it is a difficult task to win against a team such as the Spurs, especially on their court. However, the team should completely forget about Ibaka, start focusing on their game only, and believe that they could beat the respective team. In what I mean by believing, is that having faith in themselves as Westbrook did back in the previous series against the Clippers in game five. The Thunder will never be able to beat the Spurs if Brooks and the team as a whole depended on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook offensively. The role players must be involved, because I can assure you that every single role player has a way in which he could help the Thunder both offensively and defensively. I don’t understand why Scott Brooks isn’t playing players such as Lamb and Jones in the game. The Thunder are playing against a pure basketball team. Therefore, a new system must be established in order to win the series. In addition, we never see roll players having double digits in terms of scoring, and the starting 5 players contain two scoring options only, which is a huge drawback that has an impact on the Thunder negatively. Scott Brooks must have great defensive plans and formations in terms of denying the ball, playing tight, and sagging off. He must be aware of the Spurs second chance points that they acquire near the rim, so he must be careful in choosing the right starting big men that would protect the rim. Brooks also must figure out the key to stopping Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan. The players must be focused the whole time defensively and offensively, because the turnovers are ruining the chances of the Thunder getting back into the game and winning the game. The Thunder must win game 2 or else we might be able to assume that the series is closed out against the Thunder.