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Game 6 Preview: Thunder must adjust to beat traditional Warriors

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With the Warriors always running a big, the Thunder must utilize Enes Kanter.

Who knew the Rockettes were so good at jumpshots?
Who knew the Rockettes were so good at jumpshots?
W. Bennett Berry

So, literally every Thunder fan was disappointed in the result of Game 5 for one reason or another. Some like to blame the refs for putting the Thunder into foul trouble. Some like to blame KD and Westbrook for taking all of the shots. But whomever you blame, it seems that most Thunder fans believe that Game 5 was extremely winnable. So we all head into Game 6 with a ton of confidence.

Kerr's Critical Game 5 Adjustment

But Steve Kerr did make a critical adjustment in Game 5. The Death lineup of Green-Iguodala-Barnes-Thompson-Curry wasn't seen until the final moments of the game. Before that, Kerr used a mixture of Bogut, Speights, Varejao, and Ezeli at center. Having a big in the game gave Kerr a decided improvement in rebounds and interior defense. Case in point, the Thunder shot 15 of 36 (42%) from the paint in Game 5. But Game 4 was a game in which Kerr frequently went small. During Game 4, the Thunder shot 21 of 36 (58%) from the paint.

The number one way to neutralize Bogut is by getting him into foul trouble. But that's easier said than done, especially if ref conspirators are to be believed. So, here's another way. My counter-strategy would be to try to get Westbrook on the floor when Bogut isn't, and try to get Kanter on the floor against Bogut. Having our strongest rim attacker on the floor with Bogut off the floor will really highlight how bad Speights and Varejao are at protecting the rim. And if Ezeli takes the floor, he can be hacked. Furthermore, Kanter can defensively hold his own against the slow Bogut. Sure, Kanter will get pick and rolled occasionally. But every team can pick and roll Kanter, and we need to see his good side.

Need More Kanter

I know, I've said that Westbrook and Kanter need to play with each other on numerous occasions in the past. But I was making that remark when Kanter was having mediocre games. Games where he'd score maybe 10 points in a loss. As it stands with the Warriors, Kanter has reached a new level of uselessness. In Game 4, Kanter logged 8 minutes and scored a point. In Game 5, Kanter logged six minutes and scored a point. Kanter can do better than that, even if he's just taking jumpers and getting possessions on the block. Let's not rid ourselves of this offensive option.

One area where the Thunder are going to need to improve specifically is rebounding. The Warriors tied the Thunder in total rebounds during Game 5, and that's hard to overcome. Draymond Green isn't going to lay an egg again, and Curry and Thompson are always going to be relatively effective. OKC must take their distinct rebounding advantage to get more possessions than the Warriors.

The Morrow Conundrum

Anthony Morrow has remained an enthusiastic presence on the bench despite his reduced role. Morrow chose to sign with Oklahoma City in free agency a couple of years ago, so it's been kind of heart-wrenching to not see him out on the floor. Nevertheless, Morrow made a surprise appearance during Game 5, going 4 of 4 from the field in just 7 minutes. Morrow's shooting won't be that hot every time, and his defense was certainly exploited at least once. But it might not hurt to continue using Morrow sparingly, just for the shooting help. I can't see playing him for more than 10 minutes a game, though.

How tonight will go

I'm expecting another strong start, followed by Golden State's bench lineups keeping the game close. The Thunder have a lot of emotional support at this point. Especially when fans are meeting the team at the airport, even after a Game 5 loss. Furthermore, the Thunder's starting lineup seems purpose-built to beat the Warriors. But when Kerr starts tinkering, it's obvious that he has more tools at his disposal.

Nevertheless, I believe that the Thunder will be able to win this game relatively comfortably. Ibaka and Adams have emerged as really solid and consistent scorers with defined roles. Durant and Westbrook have traded effectiveness throughout this series, and usually at least one of them finds their shot. As long as the Thunder can keep their advantage on the boards and keep their turnovers down, there should be nothing to be worried about.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 118, Golden State Warriors 111.

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

2016 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals Game 6
(Thunder lead series 3-2)
(Thunder lead series 3-2)
May 28th, 2016
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
8:00 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), Game 3 (W 133-105), Game 4 (W 118-94), Game 5 (L 111-120)
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


Who's going to win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    The Oklahoma City Thunder
    (123 votes)
  • 65%
    The Golden State Warriors
    (235 votes)
358 votes total Vote Now