The Spurs have defeated the Thunder in game 1 of the western conference semifinals 124-92 on Saturday. The score makes the game seem a lot closer than it was, as San Antonio made nearly 61% of their shots, along with the duo of Aldridge and Leonard alone outscoring the entire Thunder squad 45-40 in the first half. The Spurs duo combined made 28 field goals on 36 attempts for 63 points, while the OKC tandem of Westbrook and Durant were not able to compete with such efficiency, only making 11 out of 34 field goal attempts for 30 points.
With such an efficient night for the Spurs, it will be hard to maintain such success against the Thunder, especially on the offensive end. When Danny Green ends up going 5/6 on three-pointers, it is a relatively good indicator that the game was most likely an offensive anomaly. There will be a good chance that both teams will regress to the mean, since San Antonio’s shooting was 12% greater that night and OKC’s was 6% lower than usual. Fans also cannot depend on Durant being below his average field goal percentage for long as well. Despite currently shooting 38% in the postseason, Durant normally shoots around 45%. Whenever Durant has been around the 45% mark this post-season, Durant drops 33.5 points and the Thunder end up winning their games.
Assuming the Spurs lose some of their efficiency, and if OKC manages to get things going, there are a few things to look out for if the Spurs look to win at home:
First off, they must continue to choke off Russell Westbrook. They have managed to keep Westbrook off the glass as he only got two rebounds, but Russell still managed to dish out 9 assists in game 1. If San Antonio wants to give trouble to the Thunder, they need to stop Westbrook from giving the rest of his team easy buckets, as most of the Thunder are not well-versed in being able to create their own offense. If Westbrook’s passing lanes are closed, he will continue to make poor shot choices and play an inefficient game like game 1 dropping 14 points on 5/19 field goals.
Second, the Spurs must look to continue to abuse the pick-and-roll with Aldridge. If Ibaka manages to get onto Aldridge in the post, Aldridge just shoots over him. If his man double teams the Spurs ball handler, he gets an open mid-range jumper, and no one is able to close out on him in time. There is a good chance that Donovan will adjust to such a game plan, but Popovich will probably counter with a Kawhi Leonard based pick system. Kawhi Leonard has an incredible post-up game, and if he gets doubled as well, there will be an easy kick-out to three-point threats such as Green or Mills.
As mentioned earlier, Durant is another factor for the Spurs to consider if he manages to get into his normal shooting groove. Kawhi managed to contain Durant in a great manner, but with a player such as Durant, there is a good chance we will be hearing the phrase “great defense, but better offense,” over and over again. In such a scenario, the Spurs need to force Durant to the left side of the court as he shoots 33% from that position. Whether it is a three-point attempt, or a long two, the Spurs need to force Durant to the left.
A final factor to consider is to make sure that the Spurs big men continue to get the boards and continue to be a dangerous defensive presence in the paint. Kanter nor Adams were able to get a good offensive game going, as Kanter only put up 6 points and Adams put up 9 points in game 1. Tim Duncan at the age of 40 had a plus/minus of +28, securing the interior of the hoop and was a significant contribution on the defensive end to the Spurs win on Saturday.
If San Antonio is able to maintain a pick-and-roll with Aldridge, suffocate Westbrook, and force Durant to his weaker shooting side, they should escape with another win tonight. The game will most likely not be a blowout, as there is a good chance Oklahoma will find some sort of shooting stroke in their star players, and their bench players such as Kanter and Waiters as well. Game 2 should be better entertainment for fans, as OKC should be able to step up to the plate, and show that they are capable of competing with some of the best in the league. Game 2 starts tonight at 9:30 EST in San Antonio.