Sunday, 1 May 2016

Spurs put on clinic at expense of overwhelmed OKC: 3 things to know

Well, it's only one game. The Oklahoma City Thunder at least have that going for them.

Other than that, nothing. Nada. The San Antonio Spurs made an emphatic statement in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, completely demoralizing the visiting Thunder, 124-92. And somehow it was an even bigger beating than that score would indicate. Here are three things to know as San Antonio takes a commanding 1-0 lead -- if such a thing exists -- over OKC.

1. That was as good as it gets, folks.

I've seen some great Spurs performances. The 2014 Finals, particularly from Game 3 on, were a clinic. But this thing against the Thunder, man. This was was something else. The Spurs, who hovered around a 40-point lead for extended stretches and led by as many as 43, got things going in the pick-and-pop with Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge. Having sacrificed much of his own offense all year, Aldridge roasted his way to 38 points, 25 in the first half, which in turn opened up the rest of the offense. The Thunder started panicking, trying to run off the roll man, and that opened up the 3-ball.

When that happened, things got bad. In a hurry.

Danny Green knocked down 5 of 6 from downtown. Throw in Kawhi Leonard -- 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting in 22 minutes -- playing flawlessly in every regard, and a Thunder defense that was simply not up to snuff, and that's how the Spurs put up 73 points in the first half.

On the other side, the Spurs' defense was monstrous. They sent multiple defenders at the Thunder, particularly Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, on every play. Westbrook was forced to rush shots and missed routinely at the rim. Durant contested at every step and also had to force shots. OKC looked totally out of sync. The Spurs looked like a squadron of fighter jets locked in on a helpless target.

2. A tale of two star duos.

Leonard and Aldridge were the two best players on the floor, and it wasn't close. Westbrook and Durant both faceplanted. Some of this was just an off night for the Thunder duo, but most of it was a great Spurs defense that constantly distracted and bodied Westbrook particularly on the way to the rim with multiple levels of defense. He couldn't get his mid-range game going, and the result was a pitiful performance.

Durant wasn't particularly bad. He had some shots and did his best to try and find things. There just wasn't any room. The Spurs simply are not concerned with the Thunder role players. From Serge Ibaka to Steven Adams to Andre Roberson to Cameron Payne, no one stepped up and the Thunder are not going to beat San Antonio if the Spurs can just layer their defense to stop Batman and Robin.

Aldridge, as detailed earlier, was magnificent. He cemented his place as the current best power forward in the league. Aldridge was flawless, and not just offensively. Aldridge has been a good defender in his career but in this game he was as close to perfect as a defender can be, even in situations where the Thunder put him on an island.

3. It's one game, but it was a statement.

The Thunder have been inconsistent all season and, frankly, something less than a true championship contender. For them it was always about the potential of what they could do. On Saturday, they played the worst basketball they're capably of playing, and the Spurs played their best. OKC has a number of inexperienced players in the rotation, and they weren't ready for the moment. The Spurs were locked in from the get-go.

Everything that everyone suspected about what a fully engaged Spurs team would look like in the postseason came to life in one horrifying moment for the Thunder. Just getting back on their feet mentally for Game 2 will take some work.

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