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Game 4 Preview: Thunder must fix many little problems vs. impeccable Spurs

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Which aspect of OKC's offense will step up and push them over the edge?

Kawhi is swimming through the d!
Kawhi is swimming through the d!
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a brutal series for Thunder fans so far. A blowout loss in Game 1, a controversial win in Game 2, and a disappointing home loss in Game 3. The Thunder now face a nearly must-win scenario at home. If the Thunder lose tonight, they'd have to overcome a 3-1 deficit. But if the Thunder can win, the series will be tied heading back into San Antonio. Any NBA veteran will tell you that Game 4 is where things really start to get tense.

Defensively, the Thunder have improved tons since Game 1. Game 2 saw Donovan go to a man-to-man strategy on defense. This allowed LaMarcus Aldridge to go off for 40+ points, but held all of the other Spurs in check. Aldridge actually was quite a bit worse off in Game 3, going just 8 of 21 from the field. But Parker was measurably better, as he went 7 of 14 from the field. Westbrook has been blamed for this gap.

Strangely, Kawhi Leonard has been stopped rather successfully by the duo of Kawhi Leonard and Dion Waiters. Leonard was 3 of 4 from three though, and had a lot of success in transition. Honestly, in Games 2 and 3, the shutdown of Kawhi has been all the Thunder could hope for.

I think the Thunder could have won Game 3 if their offense was just a bit more effective. Kanter and Westbrook barely got any time together, and Serge Ibaka only took a single shot in the fourth quarter. There were more minor problems as well. Payne made good decisions only about half the time. Waiters charged Ginobili twice. KD dropped a couple of possessions in the final minute. And Adams was shut out completely!

A multitude of players could give the Thunder that extra boost on the offensive end. But by the same token, it's hard to imagine Aldridge and Leonard continuing to have such poor nights. The Thunder's dedicated defenders are tough, but Aldridge and Leonard are two of the most consistent scorers in the league.

In any case, the Thunder will need to rely on the superstar that isn't matched up by Kawhi Leonard on the defensive end. Westbrook can be effective against the Spurs, as we saw during his Game 2 29 point performance. But he needs to take way less threes, and way more twos. It's just what Russ is better at. Westbrook went 6 of 10 from mid-range during Game 2, but only went 0-4 during Game 3. Meanwhile, Russ took six threes during Game 2, but ten threes during Game 3. The pattern should be obvious. And I'd like to see KD try to make some good decisions out of double teams. There's no reason he should be scared of a matchup with Danny Green, and OKC needs to take advantage there every single time. Once we can get Leonard back on KD, it opens up whole new worlds for Westbrook. (Kanter could do that on his own, but I'll step off my soapbox.)

If Durant and Westbrook don't get going, it's pretty much hopeless for the Thunder. Ginobili is too wily to let Waiters be anything other than a three point shooter. Ibaka is completely reliant on OKC's stars. And Kanter will only have crazily high scoring nights against teams with no big men.

Expect the same rotation of Kanter, Waiters, and Payne off the bench. Maybe a few spot minutes for Morrow. Nick Collison appears to have fallen by the wayside at this point, as have Randy Foye and Kyle Singler. I'd also expect for Donovan to run with Adams as long as possible, as well as continue to experiment with the Twin Towers lineup.

This game is certainly winnable, but a lot is going to have to click. My money is on OKC's determination giving them the early edge they need to stay ahead. Given that West, Duncan, and Green have all been held to moderate effectiveness, I think that the Thunder's overall D is solid enough at this point. It's really just about taking care of the ball and keeping everybody involved. I mean, we do have the two best players on the floor.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 108, San Antonio Spurs 106.

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

2015-16 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semi-Finals Game 4
@
67-15
(Spurs Lead Series 2-1)
55-27
(Spurs Lead Series 2-1)
May 7th, 2016
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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)
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

  • 23%
    The Oklahoma City Thunder
    (98 votes)
  • 76%
    The San Antonio Spurs
    (322 votes)
420 votes total Vote Now