THUNDER TRAILS SERIES
3 Lead changes in the game, all of which came in the first quarter
3 Offensive rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, part of six boards that he grabbed in 16 minutes
5-for-5 Shooting start from the field for Reggie Jackson, who scored 11 points all in the first quarter
6 Steals by the Thunder, including three by Russell Westbrook, as the Thunder scored 10 points off of 12 Spurs turnovers
7 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 21 points and four rebounds
11-for-21 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who scored 25 points
26 Bench points for the Thunder, led by Steven Adams who had six
May 29th, 2014
SAN ANTONIO – Lose focus in this game for one second, and you can get hurt.
The Thunder had a rhythm going in the first quarter, building a seven-point lead by getting defensive stops and sharply moving the ball on offense. A lapse in effort and execution in the final minute of the quarter turned a six-point edge into a tie ball game, and the San Antonio Spurs used that momentum to coast to a 117-89 victory over the Thunder on Thursday night.
On the night, the Thunder allowed the Spurs to shoot 51.3 percent from the field and let up 13 made three-pointers. On the other end of the floor, the offense became isolation heavy, and the team shot just 43.2 percent from the field. It all looked good in the early going, but Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team got away from what was working and it turned the game completely.
“The first quarter was fool’s gold,” Brooks explained. “We gave them 32 points. We were feeling good. The last two minutes, we relaxed and they hit a couple of threes. It’s about playing every possession, and we didn’t have that mentality tonight.”
The Thunder prides itself on the defensive end, but the toughness, intensity and communication wasn’t there tonight. Six Spurs players scored in double figures as the ball whipped around the perimeter, carving out driving lanes or wide open three-point shots. With four three-point shooters on the floor at all times for the Spurs, the Thunder will have to be more physical on the ball and prevent easy drive-and-kick opportunities. After preventing San Antonio from getting easy shots at the rim and along the three-point line in Games 3 and 4, the Spurs flipped the script and got whatever it wanted on Thursday.
“We have to do a better job of containing that dribble,” Brooks said. “There were too many straight line drives. We want flat line drives and we want to be able to stay chest to chest with their offensive player.”
Much of what the Thunder does on offense is tied to its ability to get stops and defend. Despite 25 points from Kevin Durant and a 21-point, seven-assist night from Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s offense never found a flow after its 32-point first quarter. The vast majority of the issue was not being able to get out and run, but rather pull the ball out of the net after a Spurs score. Veteran center Kendrick Perkins explained that the Thunder must be quicker and play with more force in the half court, but that it all starts with using their defense to spark offense.
“We weren’t able to get stops, so every time we were coming down, they were able to set up in their half-court defense,” Perkins explained. “Against San Antonio, you have to force turnovers, get stops and get out and run before they can set up on the defensive end. We got stagnant and started holding the ball a little bit.”
The series is now at 3-2 in the Spurs' favor, but the Thunder knows it has an opportunity to even it up again and force a Game 7 if it can get a win at home on Saturday. The Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd will be fired up with the Thunder’s back against the wall, and every player is going to come out hungry and angry, hoping to make up for tonight’s loss. There’s only one goal on the horizon, which is to do everything in their power to make both mental and physical adjustments, then go out and capitalize on the opportunity to extend the series.
“We just have to worry about the next game,” Durant said. “We’re guaranteed 48 more minutes. It’s been an up-and-down series but we have to find a way to come with it in Game 6.”
This game turned late in the first quarter, with the Thunder holding a 32-26 lead with just 59.6 seconds remaining. The Spurs got back-to-back three-pointers by Patty Mills and Danny Green right before the break to make it a tie game heading into the second quarter. Mills then hit another three-pointer to start the second quarter and Derek Fisher responded with a three of his own. Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard then scored buckets to give the Spurs a 39-35 lead with 7:23 remaining in the half. The Thunder would never re-take the lead after that 13-3 Spurs run.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Nice team defense on the opening possession to force Tim Duncan into a difficult contested two-pointer at the end of the shot clock. Excellent outlet pass by Serge Ibaka to start a fast break. Excellent execution by the Thunder to exploit the mismatches. Incredible recovery by Russell Westbrook in transition to stop a potential Spurs fast break. Good job by Ibaka to his his length to force a difficult entry pass that went awry.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Westbrook files from under the hoop to tip a defensive rebound to himself and regain possession. Steven Adams dives on the floor to keep the ball alive, then Kevin Durant keeps his hands high to slap the ball away on a kick-out pass. Durant sprints across the floor to follow his own miss and grab a loose rebound. Great job by Caron Butler to front in the post and make a steal. Derek Fisher stays alert to track down a loose ball and knock down a jumper, then Thabo Sefolosha slaps the ball out off of his man’s foot.
“It starts with the ball and it starts with the other four guys being engaged. If you don’t have five guys engaged, that’s what is going to happen. We have to get five guys that are committed to the defensive end of the floor.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks