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OKC Thunder: Third-quarter defense was a bright spot in Game 1

Thunder buckled down defensively and stormed back from an early 11-point, third-quarter deficit. That effort is something OKC hopes to replicate in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 20, 2014

/articleid/4844769/1/pictures/2666466">Photo - Oklahoma City's Nick Collison (4) and San Antonio's Tiago Splitter (22) fight for a loose ball during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Monday, May 19, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Nick Collison (4) and San Antonio's Tiago Splitter (22) fight for a loose ball during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Monday, May 19, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Nothing better illustrated how uncomfortable the Thunder made the Spurs like San Antonio going 1-for-7 from 10 feet and in during that stretch. San Antonio’s other two baskets were from beyond the arc.

Equally critical but perhaps forgotten was how the Thunder’s defensive pressure, for the first time, dictated the matchup and forced Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to insert Manu Ginobili for Danny Green only 21/2 minutes into the quarter.

“We put bodies on people at the right times and really made it difficult for them to score in the third period to start out,” said Derek Fisher. “They made some lineup adjustments, got a couple different guys in there, but for the most part, until the last minute-45, 50 seconds of the third quarter, we were great on the defensive end. Only a couple mistakes that cost us baskets.”

The Thunder took a second one-point lead on a runner by Durant with 4:44 remaining in the period. It was the Thunder’s final lead of the night. The Spurs closed the quarter on a 12-4 run, but the road team got a taste of something it could replicate in Game 2.

Brooks said the Thunder simply played tougher on defense in that period and used speed and athleticism, mostly supplied by Russell Westbrook, to create havoc on offense.

“That's always a good recipe for our success,” Brooks said.

The biggest problem was the Thunder just didn’t do it consistently in Game 1.

And everyone could see it.

Fisher: “You can’t always win just by playing hard and playing with great effort, but that definitely was a problem for us last night.”

Kendrick Perkins: “It was like night and day watching the first quarter and watching the third quarter.”

Kevin Durant: “That was our best stretch right there. We only played eight minutes of good basketball last game.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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