What Happened and What Needs to Change: Spurs vs. OKC Game 5

The Spurs look to take game 5 at home and are in need of going back to their regular style of play.

The series is all tied up heading back to San Antonio on Tuesday after the Thunder showed the league why they are able to contend for a championship in game 4. With 3:14 remaining in the game, it was a 100-96 game, but the game ended 111-97 for the Thunder. 

The Spurs were looking lost as Durant drained shot after shot, hitting a career night with 41 points. Westbrook also changed up his game plan and only took 18 shots compared to the 31 he had in game 3. Russell also had more assists on his own than the Spurs had combined. Russell dished out 15 dimes while San Antonio only managed to pull out 12. For a team that is advertised as a pass-first team, the Spurs did not show their true colours. Duncan continued to struggle, only managing to grab four rebounds in 12 minutes, Danny Green was in foul trouble for most of the fourth quarter which allowed the Thunder to take advantage, and the Spurs also were not able to hit a three point shot. The Spurs only made 2/12 threes that evening, and nothing was able to go in. Kawhi Leonard had two back to back open makes from deep with less than two minutes left and was not able to drain either of them. In game 4, the Thunder had a everything rolling their way with all their role players stepping up, while San Antonio was not able to find much success at all.

This game is a must-win for San Antonio. Obviously losing in the playoffs is never a sound option, but against an elite team such as Oklahoma, they need to be able to close things off at home to make it to the conference finals. In the previous two playoff encounters between these teams although both being conference finals series, both series ended in six games with each team taking a conference finals from one another. This season both teams are revamped and it is difficult to compare previous playoff runs these teams have had, but history is an indicator that these teams match up well against each other and games are usually determined within the closing minutes.

If San Antonio looks to win at home, they must rely less on isolations as the Thunder’s defense is starting to become more effective against Aldridge and Kawhi isolations, thus they must get more assisted buckets. They average 24.5 assists a game, and only managed to get 12. They were not playing San Antonio basketball in game 4. San Antonio will not be able to go further in the playoffs if such playstyle continues against Westbrook and Durant.

The Spurs must also look to get their three-point shot in rhythm as well. Again only getting 2/12 makes in game 4, the Spurs normally get around 18 attempts and drain 38% of their shots from deep. Kawhi will most likely get his shot back, but the rest of the team needs some more looks as well. Danny Green should be getting some looks as he has been getting his shot back this series by shooting 40% beyond the arc while also providing some stellar defense as well (although he had some terrible plays in the fourth quarter of each game).

Rebounding continues to be an issue for the Spurs as they have only been able to win the rebounding battle in game 1 against the Thunder. The bigs of San Antonio must be able to box out Adams, Kanter, Westbrook, and Ibaka as every rebound they possess turns into extra scoring possessions for Durant. Duncan struggled in game 4 with four early fouls, and he needs to be able to step up to the challenge with his elite defensive and rebounding presence.

If San Antonio manages to clean up those aspects of their game, they should go out with a key victory at home. They have only lost twice at home all year, and are not too keen on a third loss in the AT&T Center. Game 5 will be in San Antonio on Tuesday 8pm EST.

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