Finally, the Western Conference Finals produced a close game. But the Spurs made more plays down the stretch to win 112-107 in overtime, and the grades reflect the Thunder struggles:
REBOUNDING: D. The Spurs had 22 second-chance points, and they came in bunches. San Antonio made just eight of 22 shots in the second quarter and was just four of 16 on the first shots of a possession. But the Spurs had 11 points off offensive rebounds in the quarter. In the third period, the Spurs missed their first shot on five straight possessions. But they rebounded three of those misses and turned them into points, kick-starting a great quarter in which they outscored OKC 37-20. San Antonio finished with 18 offensive rebounds, led by Kawhi Leonard’s five and Tim Duncan’s four. The Thunder had just eight.
BALANCED SCORING: B. Two straight games, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had gotten little help with the scoring load. That changed in Game 5. Reggie Jackson was superb, with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting. And Serge Ibaka chipped in 16 points. But the Thunder had no such balance in the final 10 minutes, counting overtime. During that time, the Thunder had 23 possessions. Every possession but two ended with a shot or turnover by Durant or Westbrook. The first possession of overtime led to two foul shots by Ibaka. The other was Jeremy Lamb’s desperation 3-pointer on the final play of the season, after Durant and Westbrook had checked out of the game.
SWITCHING STRATEGY: C. The Thunder switched on virtually every screen, and there were benefits. Switching kept the Spurs from getting open 3-pointers, and San Antonio made just 11 of 38 from beyond the arc. Switching made the Spurs play a more isolation style. Believe it or not, the Thunder had as many assists (19) as did the passing-whiz Spurs, on a fewer baskets. But in the end, the cost was high. The Spurs continually got one of their big men posted up on a Thunder guard. Boris Diaw made the Thunder pay with a variety of close-in shots, en route to 26 points. And Duncan did the same; he had seven points in overtime, and a huge basket on a turnaround jumper with 20 seconds left, which expanded the Spurs lead to three. Duncan was guarded by Jackson, seven inches shorter, on the play. The mismatches ruined what otherwise was an excellent defensive performance by the Thunder.
INTERIOR DEFENSE: A. The Thunder gave up 52 points in the paint, counting eight points off foul shots. But the Thunder didn’t allow them easily. The Spurs made just 22 of 48 shots in the paint, and several of those baskets were off offensive rebounds. Serge Ibaka blocked four shots and Kevin Durant three.
BALL SECURITY: D. The Thunder committed 20 turnovers, against a team that is not built to force turnovers. The Thunder had averaged just 13.2 turnovers in the series. But the Thunder got careless in Game 6. Durant and Westbrook each had seven. Durant alone had five turnovers in the third quarter. Westbrook had three in the fourth quarter. The Spurs scored 33 points off turnovers. The Thunder was better in overtime, when it did not commit a turnover.
DEALING WITH FOUL TROUBLE: C. Foul trouble reared its head in the third quarter. Westbrook committed his fourth foul with 4:10 left in the third quarter and had to sit the rest of the quarter. Jackson committed his fourth with 3:22 left in the third period. Scotty Brooks sat Westbrook the rest of the quarter, and the roof collapsed on OKC. A 63-62 lead became a 69-79 deficit. But Jackson played virtually the entire fourth quarter and overtime while dealing with foul trouble.
BENCH: C. Thunder reserves scored only five points – Derek Fisher hit an 18-footer with 1:30 left in the third quarter and a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter. But the Thunder bench played some decent defense. Steven Adams was not effective in his 12 minutes, but Fisher guarded Manu Ginobili much of the game and did excellent work. Ginobili made just four of 14 shots, after torching the Thunder in multiple earlier games. And Brooks shortened his bench – Caron Butler did not play at all, and only eight Boomers played more than 2:15.