1. Start Boris Diaw
With Serge Ibaka back on the floor, the entire Spurs mechanistic and precise offense has seemingly gone MIA. All the rhythm and offense fireworks from Games 1 and 2 are out the window just like some of Ibaka’s blocked shots. Ibaka truly does cause some problems for individual Spurs mentally, namely Tiago Splitter.
Although Tiago has had a masterful playoffs up until this series shifted to Oklahoma City, he just doesn’t stand a chance against the athletic Ibaka. Most of Tiago’s points come from offensive rebounds and second chance points and against the frontline of the Thunder headed with Ibaka, Tiago can’t get his lay-ups with the same ease.
Due to Tiago’s no-show in Game 4 (3 points and 1 rebound in 19 minutes of action), Pop opted to give Boris Diaw more minutes in order to spread the floor and get some kind of production. As a result, Boris had the best game of anybody in a Spurs uniform with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds on 5-11 shooting. Many Spurs fans were calling out Pop for playing Boris so much in Game 3 when he wasn’t shooting well (3-10 from the field and 0-3 from three), but an aggressive and productive Diaw could really help counter the Thunder’s athleteic defense.
When Ibaka guards Boris, Boris hangs out on the perimeter in order to pull Ibaka away from the paint and give the Spurs the proper spacing they love. In Game 4, Boris shot decent from three (2-6), but he didn’t get much help from any of his teammates. When Kevin Durant is matched up on Boris, Boris uses his girth and post skills to move KD and get some easy buckets down low. A lot of these shots are contested due to Ibaka’s help defense, so Boris needs to continue to look for open teammates on the perimeter when the help shifts to him.
Going into Game 5, I expect Popovich to at least flirt with the idea of starting Boris or at least giving him extended minutes. The Spurs could really use an efficient and aggressive Land Walrus to shift the momentum back to the guys in black and white.