The San Antonio Spurs look to take a commanding series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 2. Here’s some keys to victory for the Spurs.
Keep Winning the Battle in the Paint
In game 1, the Spurs looked like the more dominant interior team. The Spurs outscored the Thunder in the paint by 8 points and also recorded 8 more blocks than the Thunder. These two teams ranked near the top of the league in both rebounding and blocked shots in the regular season. Winning the low-post matchup is critical in this series between two elite teams in that regard, and the Spurs should look to build on their strong performance in the trenches during game 1. Holding Enes Kanter to just 6 points in game 1 was huge. Tim Duncan and company need to persist with the interior tenacity.
The Spurs are one of the top passing teams in the league, and game 1 showed why. Open shots were created through impeccable ball movement, and the Spurs out-assisted the Thunder by 16. The Spurs may have shot nearly 20% better than the Thunder, which elevated the assist deficit, but a vast array of easy shots created through selfless ball movement can contribute to lofty field goal percentages. The Spurs need to keep playing with their signature unselfishness and make the extra pass to set up better scoring chances. Not only do the Spurs have talented players on their deep roster, but their chemistry is nearly unparalleled. Intangible advantages like that need to be exploited, because it could very well be the primary factor in going up 2-0 in this series.
Maintain the Pressure on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
After a horrendous game 1 for both of them, Durant and Westbrook are going to be determined to will their team back into the series with a strong game 2. Westbrook is more susceptible to taking bad shots than Durant is, so if he can be forced into chucking up ill-advised attempts early, the Spurs can translate their solid defense into scoring opportunities on the other end of the court. Durant is much more measured than Westbrook in terms of shot selection, and doesn’t have the personality to keep shooting unabashedly if he feels as though his shot is off. His lack of assertiveness will cause some of his usual reps on offense to be either transferred to the rarely reticent Westbrook or an inferior alternate option like Serge Ibaka. In game 1, Ibaka got the extra shot attempts from a more limited Durant, but each alternative has its advantages. Westbrook may be capable of outrageous scoring outputs, but he can also quickly shoot his team out of a game if he’s forced into bad shots. Ibaka isn’t nearly as talented on offense as Durant, so it’s a victory for the Spurs if they get him to shoot the ball as often or more than Durant, which is exactly what happened in game 1 (each had 15 attempts). Forcing Durant into a poor field goal percentage early on is critical to taking away the influence he could have as the game goes forward.