May 27, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket under pressure from San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) and Kawhi Leonard (behind) during the first half in game one of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at the AT

NBA Playoffs 2012: Thunder vs. Spurs Game 2 Adjustments


Oklahoma City Thunder

Put Harden and Westbrook in a position to draw fouls. Harden and Westbrook uncharacteristically combined for two free throws in Game 1. The Spurs are one of the stingiest teams when it comes to fouling — they absolutely abhor “playoff fouls” and rather cede a couple of easier shot opportunities instead of racking up fouls. It’s pretty simple: over the course of a game, fouling a shooter, even the worst foul shooters, is a more inefficient way to play defense than just about any other alternative.

Not only will the offense score more points per possession on free throws, but they increase their opportunities to get the line later in the quarter, the defense is in foul trouble, putting them in a difficult bind. San Antonio intuitively knows this and, for the better part of the decade, their tendency to avoid fouls has been consistent. They averaged 17.3 personal fouls per game, the third lowest mark in the entire league. Westbrook’s annoying tendency to pull up on pick-and-rolls — it’s not that he doesn’t convert on enough mid-range jumpers to make it a sound play but that he could take advantage of a scrambling Spurs defense. That tendency plays directly into the Spurs’ hands. For the Thunder to expose their defense, they will need to find ways to get into the teeth of the defense and use their speed and quickness to their advantage.

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San Antonio Spurs

Prevent turnovers. This one is obvious. Oklahoma City is one of the best teams in basketball in creating transition opportunities and finishing them. The Spurs’ sloppy first half — 14 turnovers — gave the Thunder the incentive, and opportunity, to run and utilize their athleticism in open space, the most deadly situation for opposing defenses. Back-pedaling backwards in a desperate attempt to impede their transition break is a tenuous preposition for any defense regardless of stature. Oklahoma City — ranked sixth in transition PPP (1.17) during the regular season — scored 1.37 PPP in transition, a crazy level of efficiency.

While some of their transition possessions stems from their elite athleticism, on some occasions Oklahoma City rebounded a miss and still held a man advantage on the break, a lot of also came from turnovers. Looking back at the game film, it wasn’t some fundamental mistake on San Antonio’s part. They did a good job spacing the floor and situating themselves around the perimeter to prevent potential breaks. Eliminating turnovers will decrease Oklahoma City’s proficiency, albeit slightly. They will always be able to create more transition breaks than most teams. Lowering their extremely favorable situations will be of utmost importance in Game 2.

Tags: Featured James Harden NBA Playoffs 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder Popular Russell Westbrook San Antonio Spurs Western Conference Finals

  • rtesoro440

    Leonard and Jackson should do a better job guarding durant. I did not see Green guarding westbrook or shooting the ball well. The Spurs MUST limit their turnovers and interceptions. The role players MUST continue doing their jobs. Manu MUST cancel out the contributions of harden. The rest will take care of itself. Win 2? Go Spurs!  

  • AirAlamo1

     @rtesoro440 I am very nervous about this game by the way. I feel like every game is going to the wire and I might not be mentally prepared to deal with this.