The San Antonio Spurs are fighting for their playoff life against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 6. The Spurs’ remarkable season will end prematurely if they can’t pull off a win tonight. Here are some keys to victory to ensure the Spurs keep their championship aspirations afloat.
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The Thunder absolutely dominated the offensive glass in game 5. They grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. During the regular season, they lead the league by averaging about 13 per game, which puts into perspective just how impressive they were at securing 2nd chance opportunities. It helped to remedy the effects of turning the ball over 20 times. They averaged about 16 turnovers per game in the regular season, which ranked in the top 4 amongst teams in the league. A disastrously sloppy performance was saved by the efforts of Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, and Russell Westbrook securing offensive rebounds. Kanter had 5, while Adams and Westbrook each contributed 4. Considering that the 2nd highest average in the regular season in offensive rebounds per game for an individual player was 3.5, it’s astounding that 3 players on the Thunder were each able to accumulate those numbers off the glass. Tim Duncan has to grab more than the 3 rebounds in his 28 minutes of play during game 5. Of those 3 rebounds he grabbed, only 1 was defensive. The Thunder are feasting on the boards, and if the Spurs wish to hang on in this series, they’ll seek to rectify that.
Fluid Ball Movement
The Spurs haven’t totaled 20 assists in any game this series since their impressive 39 assist output in game 1. Even with their outlier in the opening game, the Spurs are averaging just 21.6 assists per game this series. That would rank 20th in the league during the regular season. For a team that ranked tied for 3rd during the regular season by averaging 24.5 assists per game, this series has been a major disappointment in terms of offensive facilitation. They’ve averaged 17.3 assists per game in games 2-5, which would rank last in the NBA if translated over an entire regular season. The Spurs need to get back to their brand of offense that’s predicated on selfless ball movement and utilizing the extra pass to create a better scoring opportunity.
The Spurs’ bench players were nonexistent in game 5. The second unit combined for just 11 points on 6-18 shooting. Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, David West, and Kyle Anderson need to provide solid contribution at the same rate they did during the regular season. The Spurs only lost in game 5 by 4 points. Just 5 extra points spread amongst those 5 talented bench players would have had the Spurs on the verge of advancing to the Western Conference Finals. The bench players need to be more effective on offense, especially considering that 3 of the 5 Spurs’ starters scored 20 or more points in game 5. They need to rely on that deep lineup that has earned so much praise this season to have a good game.