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3 Thoughts From San Antonio's Game 1 Win over Oklahoma City

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The Thunder miss Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan is still the man, and where will OKC find offense?

3 Thoughts From San Antonio's Game 1 Win over Oklahoma City

Last night, the San Antonio Spurs made easy work of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first game of the Western Conference Finals, winning 122-107 at the AT&T Center. Tim Duncan led the way for San Antonio with 27 points and 7 rebounds, Tony Parker chipped in 14 points and 12 assists, and Manu Ginobili scored 18 points in the second half. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 53 points, but they didn't get much help elsewhere. Here are three observations from last night's game.

The Thunder Miss Serge Ibaka

When I first heard that Thunder forward Serge Ibaka was out for the remainder of the postseason, a bad feeling crossed my mind. Outside of Duncan, San Antonio is relatively thin as far as interior scoring threats. But, as was evidenced last night, when the offense focuses on getting the ball into the paint, nearly everyone can get there and score. San Antonio out-scored OKC 66-32 in the paint, and it wasn't just Duncan. Whether it was a traditional post-up, a pick-and-roll, dribble-drive or penetration from the wings/top of the key, the Spurs were everywhere and the Thunder couldn't keep them out of the paint or stop them when they got there. Nine Spurs scored from inside the paint compared to just five for Oklahoma City, and Parker scored.

Even more glaring was the hole Ibaka left on the offensive end. Veteran Nick Collison took Ibaka's place in the starting lineup, and he finished with 0 points in 16 minutes. Kendrick Perkins scored just 5 points in 24 minutes. Steven Adams scored 4 points in 17 minutes. That's a serious lack of balance and a ton of pressure to place on Durant and Westbrook. The Thunder need a lot more from their available big men.

Small Ball Isn't the Answer

One way htat OKC coach Scott Brooks tried to counter the loss of Ibaka was by playing a small lineup. Derek Fisher, Reggie Jackson and Russell Westbrook often shared the court together with Durant as almost a stretch five with Caron Butler playing a small stretch four. A lot of San Antonio's success in the paint I think can be attributed to these smaller lineups that Brooks employed. The lane was too wide open for the Spurs on offense, and the Thunder didn't get enough out of the move offensively to justify keeping it around.

What makes the Spurs so dangerous is how malleable they are. They have the roster to play any style, so whatever Brooks decides to counter with, San Antonio will be ready. But Brooks has to go elsewhere, either by giving someone like Steven Adams more minutes or by continuing to roll the dice with offensive liabilities like Collison and Thabo Sefalosha.

Kawhi Leonard Is Here

We've known that Kawhi Leonard is good for a while, and he knows it too. In watching Leonard during the Playoffs, he's playing as assertively and as confidently as I can ever remember. Just look at this take against Durant:

Not only is Leonard going to make Durant work to get his shots off, but Leonard can also test Durant with his offensive game. Leonard didn't shoot particularly well last night (7-16), but his aggressiveness is another thing Durant has to think about when he's matched up with him.

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