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Game 4 Analysis: Duncan's late absence clears way for Thunder to beat Spurs, 111-97

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Steven Adams took out Duncan, and that gave OKC the spacing they needed.

Throw it up!
Throw it up!
W. Bennett Berry

In a thrilling turn of events for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they were able to dominate the fourth quarter and secure a home victory over the San Antonio Spurs, 111-97. The series is now tied 2-2, with Game 5 set to be played in San Antonio.

The biggest individual story out of last night's game has to be Steven Adams. Adams was extremely reliable, tieing his playoff career high of 16 points. But Adams was more reliable as a defender, shutting down Tim Duncan and protecting the paint. Adams' dominance of Duncan was so severe that Duncan didn't even play in the fourth quarter. It was the first playoff game of Duncan's career where he was unable to score. Furthermore, Duncan's 12 minutes of playoff time is a career low. Obviously, there are other forces at work here. Duncan is old, and the Spurs are more stocked at the big positions than they have been in recent years.

But the fact that Adams was able to force Duncan off the floor really did wonders for OKC. Duncan is the Spurs only true rim protector. Aldridge, West, and Diaw are all skilled bigs, but none of them have the height or athleticism to make much of a defensive impact. So the Spurs had to work harder to close off the drives. This meant more open opportunities outside for the Thunder, who were willing passers in the fourth quarter. OKC went 5 of 7 from three in the fourth quarter, as opposed to 4 of 16 for the rest of the game.

Duncan's absence in the fourth also allowed OKC to trot out their twin towers lineup. We saw another form of the Twin Towers lineup in Game 3, but it didn't feature Russell Westbrook. With Westbrook and without a rim protector on the other team, the twin towers lineup was particularly deadly. The towers allowed KD to go 6 of 6 from the field in the fourth quarter, because they set such good screens. The towers also cleared spaced and allowed OKC to collect 5 offensive rebounds, key to the big run.

All said and told, the Thunder went into the fourth quarter down 4, and finished the game up 14.

Box ScorePlay-by-Play/Shot ChartPopcorn MachineCondensed HighlightsKevin Durant 41 Pts HighlightsDion Waiters 17 Pts HighlightsSteven Adams 16 Pts HighlightsTony Parker 22 Pts HighlightsKawhi Leonard 21 Pts HighlightsLaMarcus Aldridge 20 Pts HighlightsKevin Durant Postgame InterviewPopovich and Donovan Postgame PresserParker, Durant, and Westbrook Postgame PresserInside the NBA Tip-Off Inside the NBA Talking "Vintage Durant"

Is the "Twin Towers" lineup the future?

It's hard to say that this Adams-Kanter lineup would work well in all situations. As I stated above, the lineup benefited from the Spurs not having a true rim protector on the floor. Furthermore, the lineup doesn't really work without Westbrook. Lastly, the lineup isn't exactly the best at guarding perimeter shots. The fourth quarter run was impressive, but it came with Aldridge and West missing some pretty easy stuff. And Kawhi wasn't able to get anything while posting up KD, which can't last for long.

Honestly, I think that Ibaka is the right solution at power forward in most situations. And there's no way that this lineup could be effective against the Warriors, should we get the honor of facing them. But when this lineup is on the floor moving forward, I'd like to see Westbrook with it. Ball movement is key to this lineup's offensive success, and no one provides better ball movement than Russ.

Hustle Stats

thunderhustlestatsspursgame4

The Spurs had 48 points in the paint during game 4, compared to just 20 points in the paint during Game 3. Clearly, the Thunder put more of an emphasis on spreading out and contesting shooters tonight. Steven Adams once again led all defenders with 12 contests, and led all screeners with 6 screen assists. Throw in 2 deflections, and you've got one heck of a clutch playoff game from Steven Adams.

Serge Ibaka only played 28 minutes and saw no fourth quarter time, but his defense of Aldridge was stellar. The 11 contested shots reflects that. Kanter also did a solid job of filling in at power forward and protecting the paint in that way, with 8 deflections tonight. Even Westbrook showed up, with an amazing 5 deflections. Westbrook's increased defensive intensity on key possessions really helped OKC out tonight.

Highlight of the Night

I don't know what was more impressive. The fact that KD dribbled and made that pass on his butt, or the fact that Westbrook hit a blind turnaround jumper.

Slammin' Notes

  • Dion Waiters is an underappreciated aspect of tonight's win. Waiters scored 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting, recorded 3 assists, and had no turnovers. Most of what Dion did was taking what the defense gave him. Hitting open threes, making weak side drives or jumpers. Waiters also ran the ball twice on the break for a couple of tough layups. As long as Dion has that little bit of space and some momentum, he can put in some great offensive performances.
  • Serge Ibaka still doesn't get enough opportunities. Held Aldridge to 8 of 18 for the most part, though that was also partially Kanter's doing.
  • Russell Westbrook really attacked the paint and went to the mid-range today. Westbrook only shot 5 of 18, but had 15 assists to 3 turnovers on the night. I'm just glad that Westbrook could salvage a good defensive and passing night out of a terrible shooting night. I also liked where Westbrook shot the ball, and appreciated that he only took three shots from three.
  • KD had less on-ball stuff, usually getting set up via off-ball screens. But KD was able to fool his defender a few times. Most importantly, KD defended Kawhi well. It should be noted that Popovich matched Green up with Durant for the first three quarters, but switched Kawhi onto Durant during the fourth quarter. None of it seemed to effect Durant. But I hope Durant can keep up this production, forcing Popovich to put Kawhi on KD permanently. That would free up a lot for Westbrook, who can soar past Danny Green.
  • Andre Roberson missed a tough layup and a three. Roberson is mostly the early Kawhi stopper at this point, though.
  • Nick Collison and Cameron Payne got second quarter minutes, while Randy Foye got third quarter minutes. Payne had two turnovers, and Collison had one foul. Foye was considerably more effective, nailing an open corner three and an impressive weak side drive. I'm biased towards Foye, but I really think he's the better defender/game manager at this point. And Collison's cool, but as long as the Twin Towers lineup can function, there's no need for him. Always nice to have Collison in reserve though.
  • Enes Kanter was 3 of 6 for 11 points, and hit a three in the fourth. Kanter hasn't really been a big offensive producer in this series, though he's been a consistent minor source of points. Also, Kanter's defense has ranged from passable to good, and his rebounding is crucial. (8 boards in 28 minutes) David West's 4 of 10 performance is partially due to Adams work. Considering West has crushed OKC before, I'm proud.
  • Morrow, Singler, and Mohammed had DNP-CDs.
  • Tony Parker was 10 of 16 for 22 points. Westbrook's defense was locked in during key moments, but there were definite instances of Westbrook's usual defensive lapses. But part of Parker's performance was just him being him. Ridiculous amounts of quickness, trickery, and finesse. I mean, Parker is 6'2", but went 6 of 7 in the paint tonight. Wow!
  • Diaw was 5-8 for 11 points, and had some impressive plays in the post off of the dribble. Diaw's lack of post defense left him with a -11 +/- ratio, however.
  • Manu Ginobili was his crafty self, shooting 3 of 5 from all ranges.
  • I'm glad KD said no. Help defense is hardly ever a good idea for OKC.
  • I love how Mo Cheeks is always the first guy to break up the conflicts. With a surgically repaired hip, no less!
  • The new "Peek-a-boo" dance!
  • Would KD have ever gotten forcibly taken out under Brooks? Probably not. Thanks, Billy D!

Marina's Awards

Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, reaching new highs

Thunder Down Under: Steven Adams, the unseen engine of the team

Thunder Blunder: Cameron Payne, despite the incredible dancing

Thunder Plunderer: Tony Parker, whose cool confidence is unflappable

Next Game: At the San Antonio Spurs, Tuesday, May 10th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.

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