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OKC Thunder notebook: Kawhi Leonard tasked with Russell Westbrook assignment

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.
by Berry Tramel and Anthony Slater Published: May 30, 2014

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.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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