On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about the Spurs?
Joe Bendiez: 8. I’ve never seen a team play so well, and then all of a sudden, just collapse. The fact the Spurs are at full strength worries me even more. Maybe the season is starting to take its toll on some of the guys, because this series, San Antonio has went from one of the best offenses in the league to the sloppiest.
Quixem Ramirez: 8.5. I keep waking up in the middle of the night with haunting visions of James Harden’s step-back 3-pointer. Make. It. Stop.
How surprised are you that the Thunder have completely stagnated the Spurs offense and, simultaneously, moved the ball well on offense in their last three games?
JB: I am not that surprised. The Thunder have three of the best players in the league, plus a few bigs and a Swiss guard that play basketball together like they’ve done it for years. Honestly, I did not think they would be able to do any of those things, but it does not shock me they came to play. They are a very hungry team, and San Antonio just looks rattled.
QR: I’m very surprised. Oklahoma City has done the improbable; they’ve made the Spurs offense look fallible rather than infallible. Not only have they made it difficult on Tony Parker on the perimeter, but they have simultaneously reduced the size of passing angles, making the dazzling dispay of ball movement less frequent. Even more surprising is their assist totals. In their last three games, they’ve averaged 24 assists per game with 58.1% of their shots assisted. Keep in mind that this is the same team that finished last in assist rate and assist percentage. I’m not surprised by their performance but rather how they are defeating the Spurs.
If the Spurs (hypothetically) lost tonight, how should we remember this 2011-12 Spurs team?
JB: Don’t remember it. It’s less painful that way. However, if you really look back on this season, remember as the title that got away. The season where San Antonio went against what made them so great in the past, and decided offense came before defense. The season the Spurs tried changing the culture, but became something of a Dallas Mavericks or LeBron James era Cavaliers. An outstanding team made for the regular season, but not built for postseason success.
QR: Spurs fans should remember the 2011-12 Spurs as an incredibly brilliant basketball team. The kind of team that doesn’t come around often, where an entire roster of guys know each other, and their tendencies, like the back of their hands. I have never enjoyed watching a basketball team operate offensively more than this team. The comrarederie of the team and the relative ease in which they dismantled their opponents also makes this one of my favorite Spurs teams ever. Seriously. They won so consistently that I took every victory for granted; I just expected the same level of exorbitant production. I should stop typing in past-tense now. I’m tearing up.
What needs to happen for the Spurs to take Game 6 in Oklahoma City?
JB: San Antonio has to continue to attack the rim, but not in excess. Tony Parker would spearhead his way in to the paint, but then would lose control. The Spurs have to be able to execute on every play, and find the best shot possible. Also, the Spurs have to embrace the noise. For once this season, they are the underdog. They have to go in with that mentality and silence their doubters.
QR: San Antonio absolutely needs a good performance from either A) Matt Bonner, B) Gary Neal, C) Danny Green or D) Tiago Splitter who have been largely ineffective this series. Oklahoma City’s bench has essentially neutralized San Antonio’s biggest advantage in the series, their surplus depth. For the Spurs to extend the series to Game 7, they must receive sufficient production from their bench. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker can’t possibly sustain 70% of the Spurs’ offense on a nightly basis.
Predict the outcome of Game 6.
JB: Thunder by six. It will be somewhat close, but I just see the Thunder pulling away at the end. That crowd will be too electric, and help propel Oklahoma City earn their first Finals bid.
QR: Spurs … win? I’m an eternal optimist. As long as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker don the silver and black and Gregg Popovich is conjuring up diabolical sets, I will not give up.