May 29, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) tries to save a ball from going out of bounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA Playoffs: San Antonio Spurs Continue Home Dominance with Game 5 Victory

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This series has been weird, to say the least.

With the San Antonio Spurs winning Game 5 117-89, the Spurs have taken a 3-2 series lead going into Oklahoma City with hopes of closing out the young and athletic Thunder.

With yesterday’s victory, all five games of the series have been decided by nine or more points.

May 29, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (left) and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) react during the second half in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been weird that none of the games have come down to the wire due to both the Spurs and Thunder imposing their wills on their home floors.  Tim Duncan even alluded to the weirdness of this series saying, “It’s the craziest series I’ve ever been involved in.”  Nonetheless, the Spurs did an excellent job of defending home court last night by actually almost following all three of the keys I mentioned in the Game 5 preview.

“It’s the craziest series I’ve ever been involved in.” – Tim Duncan

By the end of the first quarter, the Spurs looked like they were going to be in trouble for the rest of the game.

Although the game was tied at 32 each, it was the way the game was unfolding that seemed troublesome for the Spurs.  The Thunder started off the game shooting one-for-seven but rebounded and looked like the Thunder team that dominated in Oklahoma City.  Reggie Jackson headed the Thunder attack by going five-of-five from the field with 11 points and looked poised to enhance his reputation as the “Spurs killer.”

For the Spurs, they decided to start Matt Bonner in an effort to spread the floor and take Ibaka away from the paint.  Although Bonner did not make a huge impact in the box score, his presence eventually helped open things up for the Spurs offense.

However, in the first quarter they had several broken plays that somehow ended in points, so the Spurs were incredibly lucky to get out of the first quarter tied.  It was in the second quarter that the Spurs finally started to take form and perform like the Spurs team that dominated in Games 1 and 2.

Headed by Manu Ginobili, the Spurs created a 10-point separation going into halftime.  Manu played an all-around brilliant game finishing with 19 points, six assists, and zero turnovers.

With Boris Diaw helping spread out the floor and moving Ibaka even a few feet from the rim, the Spurs were able to attack the basket with more aggression and decisiveness.  In effect, the Spurs were able to get the three point looks they wanted when they wanted, finishing the night 13-26 from three.

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Although Russell Westbrook hit a very deep three right before halftime to cut the league to 10, the Spurs had finally gained some momentum and it wasn’t going to be stopped the rest of the game.

There’s not really much informative analysis to give about the third and fourth quarters.  The Spurs built up a 20 point lead going into the fourth quarter and Scott Brooks waved the white flag and played the end of his bench.

One thing to note from watching the third quarter was that Kevin Durant and Westbrook did look a little winded.  It’s tough to play at such a high level of energy for 40-plus minutes a game night in and night out, but it’s especially hard to do so against the Spurs since they deploy so many fresh bodies from their bench.

The Thunder don’t have that luxury and rely on both their superstars to carry the load offensively.  If they’re gassed, their offense seemingly goes with it.  Their exhaustion could be an extension from the seemingly useless extended minutes that the two played in the Game 4 blowout, or it could be from the fact that the Spurs threw out a different defensive wrinkle in Game 5.

Instead of defending Durant with Kawhi Leonard, Popovich opted to put Kawhi on Westbrook in an attempt to slow down the explosive guard.  This put the task on Danny Green to guard Durant, and, for the most part, this strategy worked.  Kawhi obviously isn’t as quick as Westbrook, but his length did bother him to an extent and helped limit Westbrook to only 12 field-goals attempted.

For Durant, he has noticeably had some “struggles” in these playoffs going up against smaller defenders–Chris Paul and Tony Allen–and although Durant did have a solid night shooting, he only attempted four free throws the entire game and never had the opportunity to take over.

I fully expect San Antonio to use these same matchups going into Chesapeake Arena.

All in all, the Spurs looked fantastic in their Game 5 victory.  They finally squashed out the demons of their 2012 series with the Thunder and look to finally win a game in the hostile confines of Chesapeake Arena.

If the Spurs can replicate their level of play in Game 5 in Oklahoma City, then they have a great opportunity to reintroduce themselves to the NBA Finals.  Neither team has been able to win on the road, but San Antonio can buck that trend tomorrow night.

Let’s hope that the Spurs are finally due.

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