San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder
When: May 6, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Players to watch: The first two games of this series were polar opposites.
In game one, San Antonio wiped the floor with OKC, starting with a big lead in the first quarter and never looking back. They dominated all the way to a 124-92 victory.
In game two, the teams battled throughout the game with OKC somehow coming away with a victory in San Antonio, 98-97.
While the games were vastly different, there was one constant: the play of Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge absolutely roasted the Thunder’s defense in game one, scoring 38 points on 18-23 shooting in just 30 minutes on the floor (a playoff record).
Game two saw much of the same, with the former Texas Longhorn going for 41 points on 15-21 shooting, singlehandedly keeping San Antonio in the game.
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, and Thunder center Steven Adams, played Aldridge about as well as you could this game. The Thunder were positive 18 points with Ibaka on the floor in Game 2. Still, even with solid defense from OKC, Aldridge couldn’t miss, hitting every tough angle. At this point, Aldridge is San Antonio’s biggest weapon in the series. He’s the game-breaker that OKC doesn’t have an answer for. If he continues dropping 40 points a night, the Thunder better hope that everything else goes right for them.
Prediction: If there’s one thing that Oklahoma City (or any team really) doesn’t do, it’s beat the Spurs at home.
The Spurs were 40-1 at home this season, with their only loss coming to the Golden State Warriors (the best regular season team of all time.) OKC, in both 2012 and 2014, lost games one and two in San Antonio. No one expected them to snag a game on the Spurs home-court like they did in game two this year. It can’t be overstated how impressive the OKC win was.
After OKC went up early, everyone simply waited for a typical Thunder collapse. But this time, it never came. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan succeeded where former Thunder coach Scott Brooks failed, holding on to a playoff-lead and running actual offensive plays at the end of the game to get Durant, and others, some great looks.
As I mentioned in my last preview, if the Thunder’s supporting cast can keep up with San Antonio’s, they have a real shot at taking this series. Game 2 was a great example of that, with Adams, Ibaka and center Enes Kanter all playing very well. The Thunder came into San Antonio like thieves in the night, and came out with a road victory.
Now, they come home to Oklahoma City, where the next two games will be played. They’re expected to come out swinging at the Chesapeake Arena, and now the possibility of the Thunder winning this series seems a tad more likely than expected.