Spurs vs Thunder: Oklahoma City X-Factors Who Must Excel in Game 3 to Turn Tide
It has been well documented that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden haven't played as well as many hoped for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the San Antonio Spurs, but they can't do it all themselves. The Spurs hold a 2-0 lead in the series, and much of that is because they get significant contributions throughout the lineup.
The Thunder have relied on their Big Three for much of the season, but a Game 3 loss would essentially bury them, so it's time for every player to step up and play their best basketball. That includes Durant, Westbrook and Harden, all of whom must play well offensively, but the onus can't be solely on them.
Here are three X-factors that must excel for Oklahoma City in Game 3 in order for the Thunder to avoid going down 3-0 and reaching the brink of elimination.
Which X-factor will be most important for the Thunder in Game 3?
When the Thunder claimed point guard Derek Fisher off waivers this season, it was for situations just like this one. Fisher isn't anywhere near the player he once was, but he is one of the most experienced playoff players ever and brings a lot to the table for the young Thunder.
Fisher has been solid as a reserve in the postseason as he is averaging seven points per game, but more importantly than production, Fisher must be a leader in Game 3.
Fisher has been through all the battles and he has essentially seen everything there is to see in the NBA. Fisher has endured some tough series against the Spurs in the past as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and perhaps his career-defining moment was a game-winning shot to beat the Spurs in the playoffs.
Nobody should be expecting Fisher to do something like that again, but he needs to rally the troops and lead OKC to victory.
Center Kendrick Perkins is the type of player that every good team needs, but he rarely gets recognized for his contributions. He has averaged a pedestrian four points and 5.5 rebounds per game during the playoffs, but Perkins will be key when it comes to shutting down San Antonio's interior attack in Game 3.
With players like Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair, the Spurs have a number of quality bigs to throw at the Thunder.
Perkins needs to prevent easy baskets and has to force the Spurs to earn every single point they get in the paint. Perkins is at his best when the going gets nasty and that is precisely what has to happen in a pivotal Game 3.
The Thunder are a finesse team for the most part, but Perkins is one of the few players who enjoy doing the dirty work. If he can find a way to neutralize San Antonio's post players, then Oklahoma City has a good shot.
While Sixth Man of the Year James Harden gets all the accolades, Thabo Sefolosha is actually Oklahoma City's starting shooting guard. That obviously isn't to say that Sefolosha is the better all-around player, but he brings some things to the table that Harden simply doesn't.
Sefolosha's biggest assets are his defensive ability and athleticism. He is considered one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, and he'll have to prove it in Game 3 against the Spurs' arsenal of explosive guards.
Whether he is responsible for covering point guard Tony Parker or shooting guard Manu Ginobili, Sefolosha must be an agitator who denies drives to the paint. Both Parker and Ginobili shoot well, but they are at their most dangerous when they are blowing by defenders and either finishing near the rim or getting to the free-throw line.
While the Thunder have several good individual defenders, their team defense lacks. Sefolosha has to come up big, though, if the momentum is going to swing in OKC's favor.
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