November 17, 2017
Spurs Coach Greg Popovich vs Thunder Coach Scott Brooks
Spurs Coach Greg Popovich vs Thunder Coach Scott Brooks
Let’s get this over with quick: The San Antonio Spurs are a better team than the Oklahoma City Thunder. Without All Star guard Tony Parker, they outscored the Thunder 91-66 over the final 38 1/2 minutes. An even clearer picture emerges by looking over at their respective benches. Greg Popovich has built a team in every sense of the word, with an offense that shares the ball and places maximum pressure on the opponent’s defense. And they have a foundation of solid man to man defense that invites their opponents to take inefficient shots. In this game, it wasn’t that they got hot, or lucky – it was precise teamwork on both ends of the floor that separated them in the 2nd quarter, and enabled them to extend their lead and win going away.

The first key for the Spurs offense it to get the ball to the screener as he rolls to the middle of the floor. Both Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter have become so adept from this position, that if they get the ball, the Spurs are almost guaranteed a great shot. The Thunder couldn’t adjust, and the Spurs used their poor hedging and ball pressure to slice them up time and again. While the Spurs were impressive, there were 5 possessions that got them right to the basket where they fumbled the ball away uncharacteristically.

The next key we identified was Russell Westbrook’s game management. One look at the box score shows he took 27 shots (making only 11) while the best scorer in the league took only 13, making 7. Toss in his 4 turnovers, only 1 assist after the 1st quarter, and you can see how this game got out of hand. More head scratching plays abound – at the end of the third quarter, he tosses up a shot from half court, thinking the Spurs were taking a foul. One problem with this notion – the Spurs were WINNING by 2, it was the THIRD quarter, and they had no need to foul. Gary Neal was simply closing out to pressure him.

Kendrick Perkins is another culprit on our radar. While he has a reputation as a defensive stopper, aside from an occasional good possession against a post player, his effort last night was downright unacceptable. Numerous opportunities for him to rotate over and help on a post player never materialized, while his hedging was filled with reaching for the ball and huge gaps for the Spurs guards to exploit.

Kawhi Leonard continues to impress with his all around play, taking good shots under control, rebounding well from his position, and playing very active and heads up defense. The Spurs are grooming him to be the face of their franchise, and I can see him becoming the next in line to Scottie Pippen’s brilliant play.

Lastly, Tiago Splitter is quickly establishing himself as the primary down low threat for the Spurs, allowing Tim Duncan to roam and plug his skills in wherever necessary. The Thunder had no answer for him down low, as he exploited everyone OKC could throw at him – including Ibaka, Perkins, and Collison.

These two teams are on a collision course for the Western Conference Finals, and it’s clear the Spurs are out to avenge their curious loss in last year’s playoffs. By switching Sefolosha onto Tony Parker, it stymied the Spurs offense and changed the series. This time around, the Spurs have established they don’t need to rely on Parker for their offense – they can kill you from every position at any time. With their strong bench play, it’s hard to envision the Thunder emerging victorious in another matchup.

Coach Nick

Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown, coached the Triangle Offense at the high school level, and counts Tex Winter and Pete Newell as mentors. For more of our conversation, follow him @BBALLBREAKDOWN.

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  • Nice article. I think San Antonio should be favored, I don’t think OKC matches up well without Harden.

  • I used to love your articles but the more I read, the more I realise how you use/show only the stats to “proof” your opinion but don’t make your opinion based on all stats.

    At first, you only count shots as a used possesion on offense, which all know isn’t anywhere near the truth (Dwight 39 FTA, no used possession in Orlando?). KD had 23 possession, RW 32 which is still a big gap but not as huge as you would like it to be.

    Second, you mention the 4 TOV of RW, but “forgot” to mention KDs 5 TOV with way less usage rate? Really?

    And last, if RW took “all” the shots like you say, why is it possible that KD had the same amount of rebounds at a position that’s supposed to get more rebounds then the point guard?

    A little much rambling, but I really don’t like it if people just use certain stats to proof their point and not base their opinion on all of them.

    And you really hate RW it seems…

  • Wait…. love his articles? Don’t you watch the videos were he breaks down all the plays? He is the only NBA writer since Pruiti got signed by the Thunder who actually does that (they did it differently but I love both of their styles). If you don’t recognize that Westbrook makes bad decisions as a PG than you probably defend Kobe/Iverson bad shots as well. There are always better plays to make even if you do pretty well. RW could do better and I really do agree this is a coaching issue… notice that Harden was fine in this offense and if someone simply showed Westbrook how to make wiser plays he might do so more regularly. I agree with Coach Nick… Westbrook is a great player… he’s just wasted as a point guard because he makes too many poor decisions. Slide him over to SG and they would be fine.

  • I agree… I’ve felt that ever since the trade. I really thought SA would win last year before Harden and Durant went insane.

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