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Game 3 Preview: Thunder defend the home front against the mighty Warriors

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How tenable is Serge Ibaka?

Time to take flight.
Time to take flight.
W. Bennett Berry

It's time to defend home court. The Oklahoma City Thunder managed to steal one from the Golden State Warriors on the road in Game 2. Now, all the Thunder have to do is win every game at home, and this series is theirs.

The only problem is the Thunder's really poor performance in Game 2. Traps were ineffective, switches were frequent, and the Warriors were able to get whatever mismatches that they wanted. Offensively, Kevin Durant was turning over the ball, and Russell Westbrook was clanking shots. None of the Thunder's role players stepped up offensively, and it was just an all-around disaster.

Can the Thunder recover in Game 3?


The Thunder certainly can win, but they're going to need a better performance out of Serge Ibaka. In Game 2, Ibaka was clearly the weak defensive link on the Thunder. The Warriors were able to score over Ibaka at the rim, in mismatches, and when stretching him out at the three. Ibaka looked out of stamina, and shot 1 of 6 from the floor. But Ibaka has been generally effective over the course of these playoffs, and shot well in game 1. There's definitely hope for Ibaka to recover.

Lots of people are going to disagree with me on this, but I think the solution is to limit Ibaka's minutes and go small with KD at power forward. Kanter and Adams will still be the centers, as they're the big advantage that the Thunder have. But with the Thunder smaller at the forward, it will limit Golden State's ability to stretch the floor. It really pains me to suggest dipping Ibaka's minutes, as he's such a reliable veteran. But if Ibaka's shots don't go in, he can't be hurting OKC on the defensive end.

Also, it's interesting to note that Ibaka is getting virtually no pick and pop plays run for him at this point. It was a frequent play between Ibaka and Westbrook for years, and I saw it often in the regular season. But now, Ibaka is more of a floor spacer than anything else. I don't think Ibaka's pick and pop is particularly effective, especially against the Warriors. Perhaps Ibaka's pick and pop is worth bringing back though, simply to engage him within the offensive scheme.

How will tonight's game go?

I'm expecting the Thunder to come out by trying to make a statement early, then just trying to nurse that initial energy into halftime. Kevin Durant will almost certainly go to a more shooting-oriented game. Less high pick and rolls, and more off-ball screens for shots. I don't see anyone else cracking Donovan's rotation at this point, but I'm expecting him to go more wing-heavy. The lineup with Kanter at power forward is probably a no-go, but I wouldn't put it past Donovan to break it out.

Meanwhile, the Warriors will stick to what's worked for them. The Thunder's defense has generally covered the three, so the Warriors will continue to look for easy long twos. And when the Thunder's defense isn't set, the Warriors will go to the three. It's rare for the Warriors to take bad shots, but the Thunder can disrupt them by aiming for steals and protecting the basket. IMO, steals and protecting the basket should be the Thunder's M.O. Let the Warriors shoot threes, they always go in anyway.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Golden State Warriors 107.

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

2016 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals Game 3
@
73-9
(Series tied 1-1)
55-27
(Series tied 1-1)
May 21st, 2016
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
7:00 PM Central Daylight Time
TV: Turner Network Television
Injury Report: A Clean Bill of Health!
The Series So Far: Game 1 (W 108-102), Game 2 (L 91-118)
Probable Starters
Stephen Curry PG Russell Westbrook
Klay Thompson SG Andre Roberson
Harrison Barnes SF Kevin Durant
Draymond Green PF Serge Ibaka
Andrew Bogut C Steven Adams

Poll

Who's going to win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    The Oklahoma City Thunder
    (79 votes)
  • 61%
    The Golden State Warriors
    (124 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now