Characteristic of the Spurs this season, there was a different Big-3 hero and different non-Big-3 hero for Game 2. All year long, it seems like different players have played well on different nights given the matchup and what they were needed to do. Kawhi was solid, but not spectacular in Game 1. Tonight, he was amazing. Parker played well in Game 1, but not the near-MVP play we had grown used to this season. In Game 2, he was the straw that stirred the drink.
Song of the Game: The Crystal Method, “Trip Like I Do”
I’m choosing this song for two reasons: first, it was my drive-home song today to get me fired up for the game, and second, like the Spurs offense in 2nd and 3rd quarters of Game 2, it’s just about perfect.
Play of the Game: Kawhi’s Triple
If I were to list the great plays from the Spurs tonight, this section would take you 30 minutes to read. Holy cow, there were some tremendous basketball plays, where the ball movement was simply unreal. But I’ll highlight one.
In the 3rd quarter, the Spurs were in the midst of that amazing run that had the TNT announcing crew gushing over the precision of the offense. Tony had just hit two jumpers, one really tough one, one wide open. On the next play, he drove the lane hard from a right side pick-and-roll and threw a picture-perfect pass to Kawhi Leonard that hit Kawhi right in the hands, chest high. Leonard nailed the trey.
This shows a lot about Tony’s growth. That’s a play in the past he tries to finish over a bigger player in the paint. Instead, he sets up a shooter for a back-breaking triple. And on the next play, Tony got his own, as he turned a pass from Manu into a take-your-time trey that pushed the lead to 20. Parker was brilliant in the pick-and-roll in this game. Absolutely brilliant.
Trending Up: Timmy, Boris, Thunder SmallBall
Timmy had the most dominating game I’ve ever seen from a guy who went 2-11 from the floor. 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, and a team-leading +16. In the Spurs’ own smallball lineups, Timmy was the paint-guarder and he played the high picks from the Thunder absolutely perfectly. Plus, the dunk. I mean, The Dunk. Wow.
Boris’ greatness in this game is a little harder to see, other than his 5 straight points in the 3rd. His presence on the floor is huge for San Antonio, because of the ball movement he facilitates and the way he spreads the floor. Essentially, when Boris plays well, he can force OKC out of some lineups they would like to stay with. Happened once in each half tonight.
In the 4th quarter, OKC finally learned a bit about how to attack San Antonio. Yes, the Spurs got sloppy and slowed down the pace too much and stopped moving the ball, which led to OKC transition baskets. But the Thunder small lineup – with Ibaka not Perk – was effective for a stretch in the 4th, when Ibaka played the whole frame. The Spurs will have to make some adjustments for this. It’s possible Brooks may start a Westbrook-Fisher (or Cook)-Harden-Durant-Ibaka lineup for Game 3.
Trending Down: Hack-a-Tiago
I loved/hated the sequence near the end of the 3rd where Tiago shot 10 free throws. On one hand, it’s a classic Pop maneuver to slow down the game and change momentum. On the other, it’s crappy to watch and it sucked the life out of a really beautiful basketball game. I don’t think it had an impact on the score, but it did have an impact on the tempo. Can’t wait for the Thunder fans to boo Pop when he goes Hack-a-Perk in Game 3. Or maybe against Ibaka, as Pop probably wants Perk on the floor as much as possible.
Stats of the Game:
The Spurs took 10 fewer shots (88 to 78), got beat in the paint (46 to 42), barely won the rebound battle (41 to 40), got run off the floor in transition (26 to 10) and fouled OKC 28 times for 36 FTA. So how’d they win? 55% shooting and 27 out of 43 assisted baskets. Yes, the Spurs made some tough shots tonight, but they got more good looks in their spots than OKC did in theirs.
I still think the Spurs lose one of these two in OKC, but I have to believe that the Thunder’s confidence must be shaken. They could have won Game 1 and didn’t. Tonight, for 3 quarters they were simply not good enough and by the time they started playing their game, they couldn’t get enough stops to get a win. If you’d looked at those stats above and then realized that the OKC Big 3 went for 88 points on 55% shooting, you’d have sworn the Thunder won this game. But the Spurs won, pretty comfortably. OKC’s offense is amazing, but I’m not sure how they can stop the Spurs often enough to win more than a game in this series.