Better defense and no Singler for the win
By Suave Francisco
After losing by 30-plus points just two days ago, things went back to normal for the Thunder Monday night after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 98-97 in an entertaining display of basketball from both teams. Oklahoma City stole one in San Antonio to even this series to 1-1.
What was the difference between Game 1 and Game 2?
Defense. This may be the biggest, most obvious reason supporting this win. This Thunder team played a great defensive game, or at least better than Game 1 where LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green combined for 81 points. In Game 2, those three combined for 64 points, 41 of which came from Aldridge. Leonard wasn't very effective offensively with just 14 points and neither was Green who scored 9, in an awful shooting night. They shot 10-29 from the field to be exact. You can't just deem this as a "bad shooting night," without giving credit to Oklahoma City's defense. Most of those shots were so tightly contested that it would've been a huge deal if they made the shot. Even with Aldridge, yes, there were many times where Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter played sub-par defense on him, but there were also many times where he was covered well and simply made the shot. Steven Adams probably had the most effective defense versus LaMarcus, so look for Billy Donovan to make adjustments and put Adams on him more often. Serge just isn't the best on-ball defender. He's a great shot-blocker.
After Game 1, Adams mentioned a lack of communication. During Game 2, fans and media were freaking out when TNT caught Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook arguing on the bench about defense.
That was actually a good sign. Why? There was communication. Kevin and Russell call themselves brothers and brothers argue sometimes. That doesn't mean they hate each other or want to go to a different team. Anyone who's played basketball at a competitive level knows that sometimes, in these intense games tempers flare and if one player sees something that another player doesn't see, there may be an argument. Chances are, just like any other sibling fight, Russ and KD are sitting on the plane right now cracking jokes as usual. They were just communicating. Don't read too much into that encounter.
Offensively things still weren't great, and the bench will have to show up a little more than they did the first two games if they want to win three more, but look at the progress from Game 1 to Game 2.
Game 1: No one scored 20 points. KD and Russ only combined for 35.
Game: 2: Russ and KD combined for 57 points, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Serge Ibaka combined for 36 points and 30 rebounds, and the team shot nearly 50 percent from the field.
Oh yeah, let's not forget...Kyle Singler didn't see the floor all game, except for timeouts. There's a weird trend going on, haven't you noticed? When he touches the floor, the team typically doesn't play well. When he doesn't, they play better. This just isn't the offense for Singler. He could be an effective NBA player, just not in Billy's system. He tends to throw the offensive rhythm off and appears lost defensively a lot of the time.
Game 3 should look a lot like tonight's game, except it'll be in Oklahoma City. As a matter of fact, there will be two games here, so the Thunder have a chance of going up 3-1 in the series before they head back to San Antonio for Game 5. Everything defensively looked good, but if they can find a way to get Aldridge down to his season average, the remainder of the series will look very promising. There will be a four day wait for Game 3, but Friday night they will be back in action at the Peake.