One of Gregg Popovich’s adjustments for Game 5 was shifting his best defender, Kawhi Leonard, onto Russell Westbrook and assigning Danny Green to Kevin Durant. The Spurs stayed with those matchups the majority of the first three quarters.
The maneuver worked to some degree, in this way. Westbrook got up just 12 shots in 30:48 of playing time, though he still played well — 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting, seven assists, three steals, four rebounds.
“I think I did OK,” Leonard said of guarding Westbrook. “We all did well as a group defensively, by just keeping a hand up and forcing difficult shots for everyone. Everyone was there with a hard edge and just playing the game with aggression and being physical.”
Durant had a good game offensively, too, making 11 of 21 shots and scoring 25 points. The Spurs limited Durant to four foul shots, but Westbrook got nine. But Durant didn’t exactly thrive with Leonard assigned elsewhere. Durant’s shots were much tougher than the shots he got in Oklahoma City. Durant took six 3-pointers, six mid-range jumpers, one runner in the lane and eight shots right at the basket, either dunks, layups or drives.
“As I’ve said before, they just tried to make those guys work as hard as they can,” Popovich said. Durant and Westbrook are “great players, they’re all-stars. They’re going to continue to be, and we’re going to hear from those guys for a long time to come, so you’re not going to stop either one of them. But I think Danny and Kawhi worked as hard as they could on it.”
BONNER HELPS SPURS
Matt Bonner played for the Florida Gators as a freshman against OSU in the 2000 East Regional championship game. He’s been around a long time. Bonner, a big man who can shoot 3-pointers, has played eight seasons with the Spurs, as a stretch forward. Over eight years, Bonner has made 91 starts, plus six in the playoffs. Make it seven.
Bonner started in place of center Tiago Splitter and didn’t even score, missing all four of his shots. But the move got the Thunder out of its comfort zone. Ibaka got off his game, missing his first five shots, most of them while trying (and succeeding) to drive on Bonner. The Bonner move didn’t have concrete results for Popovich. But the abstract benefits were apparent.
“That’s what they’re known for,” Reggie Jackson said of the Spurs’ lineup changes. “I don’t think it matters who plays. They could play five centers and they would still find a way to move the ball. It’s just what they do, their system, and they’re good at it.”
DANNY GREEN ROAD AND HOME
It’s often said that role players play better at home. Or, for a glass half-empty approach, role players don’t travel well.
Danny Green, in this series, might be the best example.
In three San Antonio home games, all wins, the Spurs sharpshooter had 51 points, making 16 of his 27 shots and 15 of his 23 threes. But in the two road games, Green had only 11 points, making four of his 16 shots and three of his nine threes.
For the Thunder, that bodes well for Game 6, but remains a worry in a potential Game 7.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Spurs are 11-1 all-time with a 3-2 lead in a series. Their lone loss was last season, in the NBA Finals, to the Miami Heat.
Scott Brooks asked whether Serge Ibaka is practicing with the team: “We didn't even practice. All we did was watched an hour and a half of film. That was it.”