Tim Duncan, a 17-year NBA veteran who has competed in 227 playoff games, called this blowout-filled battle with the Thunder “the craziest series I’ve been involved in” because of the lopsided swings on a game-to-game basis.
The average margin of victory has been 20.4 points, with mop-up duty reigning in the fourth quarter of each game. The Thunder’s nine-point win in Game 3, which was 20 at one point but shrunk in a meaningless fourth, was the smallest. The others: 13, 17, 28 and 35.
“It’s interesting,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “You really can’t explain it.”
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said: “No, there’s no way. I have no clue, honestly. I think every game it’s a different animal; it really is.”
DUNCAN CONFIDENT IN GAME 6
To close out this series and avoid an elimination Game 6, the Spurs have a daunting task. They must go into Oklahoma City and win in an arena that they’ve lost seven straight.
“We absolutely believe we can (win),” Duncan said. “It’s a tough place to play, and we’ve lost however many in a row there, and they’re going to be fighting for their lives. All of those factors all together are not going to make an easy game for us, but we feel like if we play the right way, we take care of the ball, we do the things we’ve talked about all series long, there’s no reason why we can’t win it.”
Popovich, joking, when asked about the home teams dominating play in this series: “Both (teams) look like they feel pretty comfortable playing at home, so that’s why we’ve opted not to go to OKC.”
MAINTENANCE PROGRAM PAYS OFF
Toward the end of the season, the Thunder staff was cautious in dealing with recovering point guard Russell Westbrook.
Upon return from his third knee surgery in nine months, Westbrook rested one night of each back-to-back and was limited to between 25-32 minutes in games that he did play.
“Obviously, we've had some interesting decisions to make. And the game that we went into overtime, I would have loved to have spent five more minutes coaching him on the floor,” Brooks said, referring to a late March game in Dallas, where the Thunder lost with Westbrook resting in overtime. “But we couldn't do that with the restrictions that we had. So we were pretty strong on our game plan, and it's paid off.”
No longer on any restriction, Westbrook entered Thursday averaging 26.6 points, 8.1 assists and 7.5 rebounds in 38.9 minutes per night. In his masterful 40-point, 10-rebound, five-steal Game 4, Westbrook played 45 minutes.
“He has another gear,” Brooks said. “He may have another engine.”
Because of Westbrook’s postseason success, Brooks was asked, jokingly, if he’d consider getting a couple knee surgeries: “I’m getting a scope this summer...really,” Brooks said, revealing that he actually has been having some knee issues and plans to get the minor operation.
PJ3 BEST ATHLETE?
On a team full of athletes, Kevin Durant is near the top.
But, according to Durant, there’s an unlikely candidate reigning supreme.
“I think Perry Jones is the most athletic player in the league,” Durant said at shootaround when put on the spot.
Reggie Jackson, an incredible athlete in his own right, was posed the same question without knowledge of Durant’s answer: “Who’s the best athlete on the Thunder?”
“Perry Jones. No comparison,” Jackson said. “He’s 6-10, 6-11, can do everything guards do. Jumps out of the gym. Lateral ability is ridiculous. It’s not even close.”
Jackson then added, “I’d be surprised if anybody’s surprised by that.”
Jones has made it a layup line ritual this season of wowing the crowd, flashing a variety of acrobatic slams that would score well in the Dunk Contest.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
One game after outscoring the Spurs 21-0 in fastbreak points, the Thunder was outscored 14-4 by San Antonio in that category on Thursday. Four fastbreak points marked a postseason-low for OKC.
Game 6 is on Saturday in Oklahoma City. Tip is at 7:30 p.m. on TNT.