San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Determining Factors

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Three-Point Shooting

May 10, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and guard Danny Green (4) react after making a basket during the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

As with the Spurs previous series, the Spurs are going to have to hit from long range.

In the Spurs four regular season games against the Thunder, the Spurs shot a terrific 39.9 percent from three. 

However, they lost all four of those games. The Thunder are a middle-of-the-pack team in regards to opponent three-point percentage: OKC allows teams to shoot 35.8 percent from behind the arc.  In the Clippers series, the Thunder allowed the Clips to hoist up 25.2 threes per game.  While they only made 8.7 of these threes attempted at a 33.2 percent rate, the Clippers shot almost 1.5 more threes against the Thunder than they averaged in the regular season. 

Although it seems like such a small number, it actually is a huge differential.

In the regular season, the Spurs only averaged 21.4 threes a game, but they made the most of their opportunities by shooting a league-leading 39.7 percent.  Many expect that their three-point attempts should go down with Ibaka out, but I would argue the exact opposite; because with a hobbled Parker, the Spurs may rely on the three more than usual.

If San Antonio is able to carry over their three-point efforts from their series with the Portland Trail Blazers (with exception to Game 4), then the Spurs should be in good shape in this current series.  They have to get Manu, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills and Danny Green the shots they want in order to play their brand of basketball.

 For the Thunder, three-point shooting is one of their crutches, which you won’t necessarily see in the box scores. In the regular season, OKC finished 14th in the league in both three-point attempts and shooting percentage from beyond the arc at 22.4 attempts per game and 36.1 percent, respectively. 

It is not the fact that they are an average team shooting the three, but it is how they get their attempts.

Since they primarily rely on isolations for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, it is when Oklahoma City breaks down a defense that they are able to kick it out to three-point shooters like Caron Butler, Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson.  Although the Spurs also rely on dribble penetration to kick out to open three-point shooters, it is remarkably different because of the explosiveness and ridiculous shot-making ability of Westbrook and Durant.

While Parker is a headache to guard, it’s safe to say he does not cause nearly as many problems as Westbrook and Durant together. 

That being said, I think the Spurs can live with Westbrook and Durant getting theirs, but they won’t be able to put away the Thunder if their three-point gunners are getting the good looks and set shots they want.

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Tags: 2014 NBA Playoffs 2014 Western Conference Finals Kawhi Leonard Kevin Durant San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan Tony Parker

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