Spurs expose the Thunder 112-77 to take 2-0 series lead

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By Kevin Green

I don’t even know where to begin with this game.

There was no offense. There was no defense. There was no anything. Altogether, it was just awful. Everything the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t have, the San Antonio Spurs had, and that was evident in the final score, which was 112-77 in the Spurs favor. Looking at the box score, it looks eerily similar to what you’d see if Carl Albert Middle School took on Carl Albert High School in a game. It was that bad.

There was a point in the second quarter where things actually looked promising when Russell Westbrook hit a deep two-point jumper to put Oklahoma City up 36-33 with 7:47 left until halftime. It wasn’t much of a lead, but it was definitely something they could build upon. Then, at almost the exact same juncture as Game 1, San Antonio went into kill mode.

The Spurs went on a 25-8 run to take a 58-44 lead to the locker room, and the game was over after that. With 1:47 left in the third quarter, Scott Brooks threw in the towel with the Thunder trailing 87-58. Westbrook and Kevin Durant finished 13-40 (32.5%) from the floor for 30 points.

“I messed the game up at the end of the second quarter,” Durant said. “I got hit on the screen and Danny Green got open for three. I over-helped, and he got another three and then Ginobili hit a three. All those plays were on me. It was my fault and I take full responsibility for it. Wish they wouldn’t have happened. I can’t get them back now, but I’ll take that one. As I said, we shouldn’t have been down that much at halftime, but I made three bonehead plays.”

“They gave up on the game pretty early,” Boris Diaw said.

It was like Game 4 in the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies when the duo went 11-45 (24.4%) from the floor for 30 points, only this time Reggie Jackson didn’t bail them out by dropping 32 points. In fact, Jackson wasn’t even close. He had eight points on 4-7 shooting, which isn’t bad, but for being an x-factor type player, it’s not going to get the job done.

To read about Reggie Jackson being an x-factor in this series, read EastWord News reporter Derek Lewis’ column here – http://thesportsbelt.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/western-conference-finals-breaking-down-the-x-factor/

After this game, there is one thing that is certain, and that is it’s not just about missing Serge Ibaka anymore. There’s something else going on with this team. There’s no effort and there’s no drive. You would think that being the competitors that they are, they would have rose to the challenge in Game 2 after getting blown out in Game 1, but instead they rebounded by going from losing by 17 to losing by 35.

The only thing keeping the Thunder from playing their brand of basketball is their own fear. It looks like not even they believe they can win without Ibaka. San Antonio is much too fierce to let a team with that mentality stop them.

Is that all of the backbone the Thunder has? Is Kevin Durant Mr. Unreliable after all? Is Oklahoma City’s playoff run nothing but a complete phony? I guess I have to give them credit for not forfeiting, at least.

Now, if you are thinking back to the 2012 Western Conference Finals when Oklahoma City came back from 2-0 down against the Spurs, don’t let your guard down. If you think that the Thunder is fine because they’ve been in this situation before and they are in no real trouble, you are so naïve. I assure you that the trouble OKC is in is real. Very real. Tony Parker and company cut through the Thunder’s defense like it was butter. I mean, don’t you get it? Oklahoma City has no true defensive players outside of Ibaka. They have size but that’s all they have. They have the defensive look but they don’t have the necessary internal strength, so San Antonio has been able to average 60 points in the paint and shoot over 50 percent from the floor in the first two games. It almost looked like they had no defense at all. It’s pathetic.

“We’ve been here before,” Durant said. “That’s all we can say. We try not to say since we were down 0-2 two years ago and we end up winning, we’ll do the same thing. We’ve really got to figure it out on how we need to get better, and we’ve always done that.”

Does Scott Brooks really plan to continue trying to defend the Spurs with nothing but empty space? I suppose Durant and Westbrook could try to make up for the lack of defense by shooting the lights out, but this is the Western Conference Finals, and this time they’re going to need a whole lot more than dumb luck or courage to advance to the Finals. I think it’s only fair to say that if the Thunder continue to go against San Antonio with that inferior defense, they will get swept.

“We’re down 0-2,” Durant said. “If they’d have won this game by one point, we still would have been down 0-2. You know, it’s easy for you to go hide and run and be negative and clash, but it’s hard for you to stay positive at a time like this when we lost by a lot two games in a row. It’s hard for you to stay together, but we have a group of guys that’s not frontrunners, and we’ll figure it out.”

The playoffs never fail to expose every team’s weaknesses, and sadly, Oklahoma City has exhibited only weakness in this series. When they fall behind, they give up. When they shoot the ball, they lack confidence. When they defend, they become lazy. At this point, the only thing that defines this team is utter weakness, and that’s not good. Of course, every team has their weaknesses, but what a championship team does is find a way to counter those weaknesses.

What the Thunder needs to do is find their resolve. When the series shifts to Oklahoma City for Game 3, they can’t give an inch. They have to put their foot on the gas pedal and never stop or slow down. Everyone can see that the Spurs sheer resolve to win is reflected in their play. They are playing pissed off because of what happened to them last season in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat that ultimately cost them the championship. The entire season has been a mission to get back to that point, and it is also the cause of the Spurs dominating performances in seven of their last eight games.

“Of course everybody is going to try to spread us apart these next few days, but we’ve never been a team that frontruns,” Durant said. “We always stick together no matter what. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.”

Will OKC find their resolve before it’s too late, or have they perhaps already abandoned all hope, accepting their fate and impending elimination? Conversely, maybe that small slimmer of hope of a repeat of 2012 will manage to make the Thunder yearn just a bit and make them want to fight again to make this a series.

NOTES:

Thabo Sefolosha keeps proving my point of why he should not get any playtime for the rest of this series. So far in the series, Thabo has zero points on 0-9 shooting, 0-3 from three. Danny Green, the opposing the shooting guard, has 37 points on 13-18 shooting, 11-15 from three.

Green shot 7-10 from three, which was better than the Thunder at the free throw line (5-10).

Player with the most heart: Steven Adams. He had nine points on 4-5 shooting, pulled down eight rebounds and played physical the entire time he was on the court. He needs to start. Period.

You can just tell when Westbrook has a three on his mind. You can see it in his eyes and in how he dribbles. These three-point shooting attacks he suffers from happen at random times and he usually does not have a good look when he releases. That’s probably why he’s 1-9, 11.1 percent, from beyond the ark in this series, 21-77, 27.3 percent, overall in the postseason. He hates losing more than anyone else on the team though.

“One person doesn’t make a team, these crybabies need to step up.” My friend texted me that during the game and I couldn’t agree more. I’m not saying that Ibaka being out shouldn’t bother the Thunder at all, but it shouldn’t be bothering them as much as it has.

Have I mentioned how tired I am of people saying “same thing happened in 2012?”

I couldn’t figure out if the Spurs fans were chanting “defense” in a traditional fashion, or if they were trying to encourage OKC to play better defense so they could get their money’s worth.

Adam Silver: “And you guys thought I was rigging the playoffs to get the Thunder in the Finals against the Heat.”

Jeremy Lamb had 13 points on 6-8 shooting and two steals in garbage time. Good for him.

Nick Collison hit a sweet tip-in with 0.1 seconds left on the shot clock during the second quarter. If that was the game-winning 36-point shot, that would have been SWEEEEEEET!

After the game, I was playing pool with two old friends from high school and we decided to play best-of-seven series against each other. I just happened to be wearing a Thunder shirt and I lost both series in five games. The Thunder has lost in five games the last three seasons (Mavericks, Heat, Grizzlies). Coincidence? I think not.

Game 3 is on Sunday in Oklahoma City at 7:30 pm.

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