Previous Meeting(s): Game 1 (Spurs Lead Series 1-0)
I remember the ACT. I'm a younger lad, so it might be a bit more fresh in my brain then for some of you folks. But I think we can all agree that standardized testing was a painful portion of our lives. But for those of you that don't remember, I'm pretty sure the order of the test went English, Reading, Science, and then Math. I could be wrong. Since I'm a blogger these days, you can probably guess what I was good at. I usually aced the English part. The reading I could get through with a few bumps, but it turned out okay. When I reached Science, I began to have doubts about my ability to go to college. Math was a total nightmare. I always hated the order, because I came in thinking I'd get into Harvard, and I came out thinking I'd never make it to OCCC.
The Thunder, right now, are trying to make it through the wall of ACT Science. They've already had their snack break, and know that there's a lot of testing to go. But the goal finally looks reachable....if they can just concentrate on some stupid hypothetical bird experiment created by some lifeless jerk at ACT headquarters.
The Spurs aren't a team that's suited to the Thunder. In Game 1, we saw that the Thunder basically need to force their hand in the first half to stay competitive. The pace was fast, the interior defense was foul-heavy, and it was entertaining as all heck to watch. But the Thunder never really looked comfortable, and were never able to get a sustained lead. The third quarter basically had the Thunder forcing up a bunch of really tough shots. A lot of them went down, but the offense didn't have a great flow. The Spurs were having a terrible shooting night, allowing the Thunder to gain a 9 point lead.
But in the fourth, the Thunder's offense collapsed and they basically lived at the line. They were able to get a reasonable amount of points (not counting James Harden's pointless threes at the end of the game), but the Spurs were on fire. The Spurs small lineup was killing the Thunder, because Kendrick Perkins was severely limited, being saddled with five fouls. Serge Ibaka, who was effective in the first half, rode the pine, which Scott Brooks later regretted. And Kevin Durant struggled mightily against the physicality of Stephen Jackson. The result was an easy win for the Spurs.
Tonight, I'd expect the Thunder to continue to focus on the defensive end. Sefolosha will get his minutes, and help defense will be the name of the game in the paint. The Spurs will definitely put Jackson back on Durant for a good portion of the game, and they'll try to force the Thunder to play small ball against their superior three point shooters.
If the Thunder are to win, they'll have to look for some offensive production from their stars. It seems kind of obvious, but Westbrook and Harden were atrocious last night. Both of them lost the ball four times, and both of them couldn't get open for shots. But, most importantly, they were terrible at running the offense. Beyond the first half, they just weren't getting other players involved or getting themselves good looks. It felt like they were slamming their head into a wall. Regardless, if they can play a more calculated game, I think the Thunder will stand a chance of winning. I don't think they will though.