May 27, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (37) drives around pick set by forward Nick Collison (4) during the first half in game one of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT

Spurs Link-And-Roll - 5.29.12

Aaronstampler of Pounding the Rock: “I feel kind of stupid for doing it now, actually. I get mad all the time when “experts” point to San Antonio’s mediocre regular season defensive stats as though it’s their fatal flaw, when so few account for the fact that Jackson and Diaw joined the team during the final third of the season. Once they were mixed into the rotation (jettisoning Richard Jefferson and greatly diminishing DeJuan Blair’s role) the defensive numbers improved dramatically, to the point where the Spurs were a top-five team in efficiency from then on.”

Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell: “Oklahoma City certainly has an explosive trio in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Beyond them, however, there is little offensive depth and almost no shot creating to speak of. Even with their top three players in the game, the Thunder often field lineups with two complete non-factors on offense. The most obvious advantage is that the Spurs can clog the driving lanes that Westbrook (7-21, 17 points) and Harden (7-17, 19 points) thrive on. The underrated one is with a stationary matchup to defend the Spurs can finally play sharpshooter Gary Neal extended minutes alongside Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the clutch. In Game 1 Neal scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on 3-4 shots and playing almost the entirety of a 39-point fourth quarter.”

Kyle Boenitz of Project Spurs: “The Spurs’ execution down the stretch was incredible. They went into the fourth down 9 but scored 39 points in the quarter to pull out the win. The Spurs were unstoppable at the end of the game and turned their 9-point deficit into a 10-point lead with 2 minutes to go. The final score of the game wouldn’t have even been close if the Thunder hadn’t been on fire in the last 16 seconds. I thought since the Spurs hadn’t really been in any close games all playoffs that they might falter if they were under pressure down the stretch. Instead they showed why they’re the best executing team in the NBA.”

Tim Duncan will be a Spur for life.

Jeff Garcia of Project Spurs: “This sentiment exactly sums up what the Spurs are about this playoff run. It’s quite clear San Antonio is gunning for title number five. With mid-season acquisitions of Boris Diaw, and Stephen Jackson, it was clear then, the Spurs were going to go all out for another title. The Spurs can rattle off 12 wins in a row en route to the NBA Finals but what does it matter if at the end of the day, they are not celebrating another championship down the Riverwalk in San Antonio.”

Paul Garcia of Project Spurs: “I give them a hand,” said rookie Kawhi Leonard of the Thunder’s defense as it disrupted the Spurs’ play through the first three quarters. But then the fourth quarter came, and so came the closing ability of Manu Ginobili. “It just happened,” said Ginobili of his breakout 26-point game, “I don’t know how exactly because I haven’t scored like this all season long, but it happened and I am very happy about it.”

Beckley Mason of ESPN.com: “This philosophy may not square with our conventional notions of tough paint defense; the Spurs aren’t layin’ the lumber on the opposition and don’t have a high-flying shot blocker to clean up mistakes. In fact, San Antonio has adjusted its playoff rotations to become arguably less physical. The only Spur who picked up a flagrant foul this season, DeJuan Blair, hasn’t played since Game 2 of the second round after starting for almost the entire season. Popovich has ditched Blair the bruiser in favor of Boris Diaw’s finesse and versatility.”

“I want some nasty” T-shirts are now available.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: “The demise of the Thunder on Sunday night started the moment it stopped going to its bread and butter, better known by many as the bearded one. When the Thunder’s offense got stagnant and the ball stopped moving in the fourth quarter, it was largely a byproduct of James Harden, the team’s best playmaker, not having the ball in his hands.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: “If there are NBA fans on Mars, presumably even they have downloaded the clip of a red-faced Popovich, early in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ Game 1 victory over Oklahoma City, beseeching his players to play tougher and unleashing a quote screaming for T-shirt treatment. For many fans, Sunday became the day “I want some nasty” replaced “pounding the rock” as the Spurs’ inspirational axiom. For the Spurs themselves, it was just another day in Popovich’s timeout huddle.”

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: “This series is about to get more physical, more so than most playoff series do from game to game, even this deep in the postseason. That’s because if the Thunder don’t have a response to the Spurs’ increased aggression, they know they have no shot at winning Game 2 or the series.”

Neil Paine of Basketball Reference (Insider): “Like Green, Tiago Splitter also put up solid box-score numbers and had a positive impact in the plus/minus ledger. Splitter provided good interior scoring, pitching in 17.6 points per 36 minutes, and the Spurs were plus-8.5 points per 48 minutes when he was in the game. According to player efficiency rating, Splitter was the Spurs’ fourth-most productive player during the regular season on a per-minute basis, trailing only the Duncan/Parker/Ginobili triumvirate. Splitter’s improvement in his second NBA season was an important aspect of why the Spurs were able to be a plus-7.3 team per 100 possessions without Duncan on the floor.”

Conference Finals watercolors.

Aaron “Hirschof” Preine of Pounding the Rock: “The first one has been a team constant throughout most of the season; staying the course. We see it so many times with NBA teams. When the game is slipping away, someone takes it upon themselves to take ownership of every offensive possession. Sometimes we see a Herculean effort of scoring production that results in a win but the usual result is a high-volume, low-percentage bombardment of ill advised shots. You will never see this with the San Antonio Spurs. Regardless of how the game is going, the Spurs will always play their game. Whether up or down big, on the wrong side of a hot streak, or in the middle of a cold streak, they always have the patience and composure to keep pounding that rock.”

Gregg Popovich on what makes Stephen Jackson’s defense effective: “Because Jack has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. And so neither does the offense.”

Scott Schroeder of SB Nation: “It was vintage Ginobili. Although the Thunder will likely try to limit his scoring output for the remainder of the series, he’s shown Harden that he’s not quite ready to pass the torch as the NBA’s best sixth man. Whether Ginobili is putting up a plethora of points or driving and dishing, it’s clear that he’ll be an immensely important piece of the Spurs’ offense this series.”

Michael Sherman of The Oklahoman: “But what to do with those first three quarters of Game 1? Discard them? Attribute Tony Parker’s hesitancy, those 16 Spurs turnovers and their 39 percent shooting to San Antonio’s week layoff? To do so is understandable given the gravity of that fourth quarter for the ages, the Spurs’ 101-98 victory and the fact they haven’t lost a game since filing their taxes. Understandable, but unwise.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of Hoopspeak: ” There is a sense of inevitability-steeped dread to playing James Harden. You know he loves going left and you will plan accordingly. You know he’ll manage to go left anyway, and you will foul him. But the Spurs pulled off the spectacular in not ceding a single free throw to the flopper savant in Game 1. I don’t mean “flopper,” in the denigrative sense. I am in awe of James Harden’s ability to frame opponents through a sleight of hand and a self-imposed whiplash that points his beard at the accused like a quivering courtroom index finger. To evade Harden’s flop space is to be magnificent, and the Spurs are magnificent space evaders. Popovich’s teams have been among the least-fouling for years and they were especially keyed on the awkward lefty’s mission.”

Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: “Ginobili is one of the most decorated ballplayers in history. He’s been MVP of the Euroleague, when he led Bologna, Italy, to the 2001 championship. MVP of the 2004 Olympics, when he led Argentina to the gold medal. Three-time NBA champ as an indispensable member of the Spurs’ triumvirate. Ginobili is 34 years old and still going strong in carving one of the great résumés in hoops history.”

Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell: “The counter from Popovich is easy (especially now that Ginobili is available—Pop did not have Manu for any minutes against the Thunder earlier this season). Pop simply covers Kevin Durant with Stephen Jackson or Kawhi Leonard, both of whom are more than capable of playing smallball power forward, and gleefully runs a squad of perimeter scorers toward the scorer’s table. And that’s exactly what he did last night. Durant played the entire 4th quarter. The Thunder ran with either Collison or Perkins at center and surrounded Durant with Fisher, Westbrook, and Harden for most of it, although Dequan Cook provided OKC with a short stint at the outset and Thabo Sefolosha was subbed for Fisher late in the fourth quarter. None of that mattered.”

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