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Game 6 Preview: Thunder attempt to neutralize Spurs' last stand

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Will Kawhi guard KD, Westbrook, or.... Roberson?

"Once more the Spurs will rule the galaxy!" -Emperor Popovich
"Once more the Spurs will rule the galaxy!" -Emperor Popovich
W. Bennett Berry

The Oklahoma City Thunder now hold a tenuous 3-2 lead over the San Antonio Spurs. Russell Westbrook had one of those "Wow! What?! How!" type games, and the Thunder stole a victory out of San Antonio. There's predictably a lot of ref-bashing from Spurs fans, and a lot of calls could have gone either way. But Aldridge was ice-cold from mid-range, and Tony Parker missed a couple of critical shots down the stretch. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili look checked out on offense, and barely passable on defense.

Meanwhile, the Thunder look undeniably star-driven. Westbrook and Durant get the lion's share of shots and possessions, with touches granted to Waiters and Kanter here and there. Adams, Ibaka, and Foye simply exist to take open shots on offense at this point. Andre Roberson might as well not exist on offense, unless the Spurs have a brain fart and let him cut to the rim.

But Coach Donovan appears to have figured out his rotations. Enes Kanter is the man of the hour at power forward, replacing Ibaka in the crunch time lineup. Kanter appears to be able to defend both David West and LaMarcus Aldridge relatively well. And this is the first time that I've ever classified Kanter's defense as anything above mediocre. So kudos to Enes for stepping up in this big moment. Kanter also seems to be effective as a power forward on offense, because he and Enes can work in a tandem as screeners. Kanter adds a ton on the offensive glass as well, and can shoot from three almost as well as Ibaka.

At shooting guard, Waiters has replaced Roberson and acts as a weak side scorer. So far, Waiters has provided a lot of stout defense against Kawhi Leonard off the dribble.

Does Popovich have anything left up his sleeve to counter the lineup? Pop could certainly try running small, or putting in Boban. But my guess is that Pop is going to trust what's worked. Leonard will probably work on shutting down Westbrook, while KD will have to deal with Danny Green. I know, Pop's big move in Game 5 was to use Leonard as a defender on Roberson, and have him play help defense whenever he wanted. And that move was effective in bringing Waiters into the game. But Waiters and Roberson are nearly interchangeable. What defense you lose with Roberson you gain in Waiters' offense. Pop's strategy must be to shut down KD and Westbrook, first and foremost.

Meanwhile, can the Thunder get their other players involved? Steven Adams and Enes Kanter are consistent, but only get so many touches a game. Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka has completely faded out of the offensive picture. I Game 1, Ibaka took 15 shots. In game 2, Ibaka took 10 shots. Game 3? 8 shots. Game 4? 6 shots. Game 5? Just 4 shots. Maybe Ibaka will take two shots tonight. Hopefully the Thunder will work to get Ibaka open more, because he's a lights out shooter. I don't so much mind the absence of the Ibaka-Westbrook pick and pop, because it turns into a deadly turnover way too often.

Also, I hope KD can get back to form. 8 of 21 was what KD shot in Game 5. That's not atrocious, but it's not great either. Getting back to Game 4 KD would be ideal, as Durant shoots off the catch rather than off the dribble. Also, KD took only 5 threes in Game 5. He could definitely take more.

Home court is nice for OKC, but it's by no means a guarantee of a win. San Antonio's going to bring it, and both of OKC's superstars are going to need to produce in the clutch tonight.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 93, San Antonio Spurs 90.

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!

2015-16 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semi-Finals Game 6
@
55-27
(Thunder Lead Series 3-2)
67-15
(Thunder Lead Series 3-2)
May 12th, 2016
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:30 PM Central Daylight Time
TV: Entertainment Sports Programming Network
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), Game 5 (W 95-91)
Probable Starters
Tony Parker PG Russell Westbrook
Danny Green SG Andre Roberson
Kawhi Leonard SF Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge PF Serge Ibaka
Tim Duncan C Steven Adams

Poll

Who's going to win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    The Oklahoma City Thunder
    (221 votes)
  • 22%
    The San Antonio Spurs
    (63 votes)
284 votes total Vote Now