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OKC Thunder: Defense leading to offense is what it will take for Thunder to beat Spurs

James Harden said the Thunder ‘let up' in the fourth quarter after containing San Antonio earlier in Game 1.
by Mike Sherman Published: May 28, 2012

“We did a pretty good job for three quarters of really containing them, really frustrating them, getting out to their shooters,” Harden said. “In the fourth quarter, we let up.”


Said Thunder reserve Derek Fisher: “It's tough to put together a perfect game or play four great quarters. But we did some good things ... that we need to do for longer.”



Of course, the Game 1 reflex is to think the Thunder's fourth-quarter struggles could have been fixed by letting Ibaka play in the fourth quarter. It probably wouldn't have hurt to have the NBA's leading shot blocker serving as a last line of defense against Manu Ginobili's drives. Expect Ibaka to play more in Game 2.


Also expect OKC — and specifically Thabo Sefolosha — to do a better job of stopping Ginobili's drives before they start. The Thunder certainly can't do much worse. Ginobili blew past everyone in Oklahoma City blue so easily you almost wondered if the Thunder forgot he's left-handed.


Maybe they did. Ginobili missed all three regular-season meetings, meaning the Thunder hasn't faced him since Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green were Thunder starters. That's right: No Manu a Thabo since February 2011. Game 1 was one wicked refresher course on the game's most creative playmaker, but at least now everyone has experienced it.


Thabo and everyone else has had a chance to recalibrate the explosiveness of Ginobili's first step, and see the consequences of trailing him on an inbounds play. (Remember Manu running Harden around the Maypoles for a layup on that inbounds play?)


There's still the small matter of staying in front of him, and Sefolosha is the best candidate to do that. I'm told a certain Oklahoma City sports-talk host is on the verge of circulating a petition calling for Brooks to start Harden so that Thabo can come off the bench when Ginobili does. It's bold and gutsy if it works. Reactionary and panicky if it doesn't.


Do any of those adjectives sound like the Thunder Way? Better to stick with “defense leading to offense.” It might be the only way.