The San Antonio Spurs spent the first three quarters of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals dismantling the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder made some nice adjustments, and made the game interesting in the fourth.
Still, the Spurs battled back the threat and won 120-111 to take a 2-0 series lead.
The late run for the Thunder should give them a needed confidence boost as they head home for Games 3 and 4. San Antonio was having its way with the Thunder defense in this one. They were getting high-quality looks on almost every possession and ran out to a huge lead.
Then the Thunder pulled a page out of the Spurs' book and played "hack-a-Splitter." They sent the Spurs' poor-shooting big man, Tiago Splitter, to the line on several consecutive possessions, and this seemed to throw the Spurs out of their rhythm.
After deciding to go small, sending Kendrick Perkins to the bench and playing Serge Ibaka at center, the smaller iineup proved much more effective for the Thunder. It will be interesting to see how much they utilize a similar strategy going forward.
Tweets of the Night
ESPN got to the heart of the Spurs' success with this tweet:
The Spurs are shooting free throws from the 3-point line.— ESPN (@espn) May 29, 2012
San Antonio's ball movement left the Thunder's defense about eight steps behind, and the result was wide-open looks.
As mentioned above, the Thunder gave the Spurs a taste of their own medicine in this one. San Antonio has been quick to foul poor-shooting big men away from the ball to send them to the line, and OKC employed that strategy on Splitter, who finished 6-of-12 from the charity stripe on the night.
This is a terrible and completely fan-unfriendly way for the game to be played. Grantland's Sebastian Pruiti has a great idea on how this could be a little more entertaining:
Would LOVE to see Splittler actively trying to avoid the foul as the Spurs run their offense...— SebastianPruiti (@SebastianPruiti) May 29, 2012
The famous Not Bill Walton has some valuable words of wisdom for Serge Ibaka after the shot-blocker extraordinaire was sent to poster land by Tim Duncan:
After being humiliated by Tim Duncan, Serge Ibaka should dye his eyebrows and attend his own funeral as a guy named Phil Shiftly.— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) May 29, 2012
Speaking of Ibaka being posterized, let's take a look. It's not every day that Tim Duncan—he of the impeccable fundamentals—earns a highlight of the night with a flashy play.
Grades for Key Thunder Players
Kevin Durant: B+
KD did a good job to keep his team in the contest through the first three quarter. He was aggressive, and had his shooting touch going early. However, he was conspicuously absent for much of the fourth quarter.
He finished with 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting. He also had five boards, five assists and three steals. This would be an "A" game for almost every other player, but Durant has an elevated bar.
Russell Westbrook: B-
Westbrook was far from terrible, but the Thunder need even more out of him. He ended with 27 points, but he needs to be more efficient, as he struggled with his shot and was just 10-of-24 from the field.
He was also badly outplayed by his counterpart, Tony Parker.
James Harden: A
Durant kept his team in it early, and Harden helped make the score respectable late. Harden was fantastic.
He was 10-of-13 from the field with 30 points. He also grabbed seven boards and dished out four dimes.
Grades for Key Spurs Players
Tony Parker: A+
Parker controlled the flow of this game. He was getting to the lane almost at will, and would either put up on a good look, or set up a teammate for an open shot.
Parker went 16-of-21 from the field and finished with 34 points. He also had eight assists against just two turnovers.
Tim Duncan: B-
Duncan struggled from the field. However, he was great on defense and on the boards. Duncan was just 2-of-11 from the floor for 11 points, but he had 12 big boards and four blocks to go along with six assists.
Manu Ginobili: A-
When things got a little tight for the Spurs in the fourth, they turned to Ginobili, and he did not let them down.
He hit big shot after big shot in the fourth, and finished with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Game MVP: Tony Parker
Like he has been for the majority of the season, Parker was the straw that stirred the Spurs' drink. Parker's on-court IQ is off the charts right now. He is putting on a point-guard clinic.
These two teams will resume play in Oklahoma City for Game 3 on Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET.