It's Game 5, and the Thunder and Spurs find themselves tied in the race for the Western Conference Finals. Game 4 was a significant victory for the Thunder, who dominated the fourth quarter with a flawless performance from KD. Not even Kawhi could shut KD down, and the fierce screens of Kanter and Adams got everybody on OKC open. Westbrook had a bad game offensively, but still managed to make himself mighty useful as a passer.
Still, it's anyone's guess as to whether the Thunder's success was sustainable. Kanter played some of the best defense of his career, looking somewhat formidable against LaMarcus Aldridge. But Serge Ibaka is the much better defender against Aldridge. Yet Ibaka doesn't present the same offensive potential as Kanter, because Ibaka isn't thick enough to set good screens. So it's really going to take continual adjustment by the Thunder to keep their lineups effective. Also, Adams will have to log a ton of minutes and avoid foul trouble.
Offensively, I feel like Tim Duncan will be a significant late game factor. Steven Adams was able to embarrass Duncan in the pick and roll a couple of times during Game 4, but Pop will make a game-to-game adjustment. And Duncan's presence late in the game will limit the Thunder's offensive options. I don't see the Thunder being quite as defensively effective, either. Some of the missed Spurs shots were open.
I guess I'm just trying to say that the Thunder haven't really figured the Spurs out. A lot of factors swung in OKC's favor, allowing them to use a abnormally effective lineup. The Spurs still have a lot of tools in their toolbox. Boban Marjanovic could come in just to protect the rim. Furthermore, the Spurs main scorers (Aldridge and Leonard) have certainly had their nights against the Thunder. For Donovan's part, I hope he continues to instill the strategy of staying with your matchup and doubling or switching rarely.
It's anyone's guess as to who Donovan will play off the bench tonight. Kanter and Waiters are the only players guaranteed to get minutes at this point. Payne looked awful in Games 3 and 4, while Foye looked good during Game 4's second half. I could see either Payne or Foye helming the point. Morrow and Collison are big maybes, depending on whether Donovan wants three point shooting or defense. Singler seems to be out of the rotation altogether. At any rate, Donovan has firmly proven himself as a much more willing experimenter than Brooks was.
Donovan also proved himself as more of a disciplinarian that Brooks was. Donovan was willing to pull Durant out of the game in the third quarter, against Durant's will. Considering how bad KD plays when he's tired and the increased risk of injury, I admire Donovan's commitment to lowering KD's minutes.
I'm expecting tonight to go down to the absolute wire. This is one of those games where both teams will bring really gritty, physical defense. There won't be a lot of great shots or beautiful offense. But I'm expecting the Thunder to come out on top because KD will attract the defense of Kawhi Leonard. And if Westbrook gets any time on Green, he'll certainly find ways to score. I know this all boils down to the old basic "you can't contain KD and Westbrook at the same time" argument.
But also look at it this way. The Thunder have so many options that can step up for double digit nights. Ibaka is always open, and has been hitting 55% from three throughout the series. Steven Adams has had a pair of double-digit nights just by attacking the rim. Kanter has averaged a consistent 9 PPG on 51% shooting throughout the series. And even Dion Waiters has provided a boost, providing consistent defense and a 17 point performance during Game 4. Furthermore, Waiters is shooting 41% from three throughout the playoffs. Altogether, the Thunder have four different significant options that they can go to off of KD and Westbrook's shot creation. And that's better than OKC has ever had it.
As long as the Thunder don't let the Spurs get into "passing around the trap" mode, I'm confident they can pull this one off.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 100, San Antonio Spurs 99.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2015-16 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semi-Finals Game 5
|May 10th, 2016
|The American Telephone and Telegraph Center, San Antonio, Texas
|7:00 PM Central Daylight Time
|TV: Turner Network Television
|Injury Report: A Clean Bill of Health!
|The Series so far: Game 1 (L 92-124), Game 2 (W 98-97), Game 3 (L 96-100), Game 4 (W 111-97)
Who's going to win tonight?
This poll is closed
The Oklahoma City Thunder
The San Antonio Spurs