The Spurs routed the Thunder 122-105 in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, and it was hard to find a silver lining when grading the Thunder.
Finding Durant: D. Kevin Durant was hot early. Really hot. In the first 12 1/2 minutes of the game, Durant made all four of his shots, all three of his foul shots and had two assists. But that’s as much an indictment of the Thunder offense as an endorsement. Durant needs more than four shots a quarter. Kawhi Leonard did an excellent job guarding Durant. The Thunder can’t allow that. Durant sat out five minutes of the second quarter, and when he returned, he got just three shots in six minutes. Seven shots in the first half won’t cut it.
Defending Duncan: D. Tim Duncan made 23 of 53 shots against the Thunder in four regular-season games. But in Game 1, Duncan made seven of his first eight shots, in his first nine minutes of court time. Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams all were torched by Duncan, who by halftime had 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. In the third quarter, Perkins did a much better job on Duncan, who missed his first five shots of the second half. But the damage was done. Duncan finished with 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting.
Starting lineup: C. Scotty Brooks started Collison in place of Serge Ibaka. The starting lineup played the first 6:34 of the game and the first 8:58 of the third quarter. Collison and Thabo Sefolosha exited together both times, and neither returned the rest of the half. In the first quarter, the Spurs outscored the Thunder starters 18-7. In the third quarter, that fivesome played much better defense and outscored the Spurs 19-15 to help OKC get back in the game. The Spurs made just five of 17 shots against the Thunder starters in the third quarter, after making nine of 14 to open the game.
Girl power: A. The halftime act, an all-female mariachi band, was great fun. Maybe locals grow weary of the mariachi stuff, but it was great music, including a medley that included “The Eyes of Texas,” “Yellow Rose of Texas” and “San Antonio Rose.”
Super small lineup: B. Twice, Brooks went with a lineup we’ve never seen – no bigs on the court. Durant was the de facto center, playing with four perimeter players. In the first half, that lineup – Durant, Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher and Caron Butler – played a span of 2:14 and was outscored 6-5. Brooks went back to that lineup in the second half, when things started going south, and over a span of 4:54, the super-small lineup matched the Spurs 11-11. So over 7:08, that lineup was outscored 17-16. In the context of this game, that wasn’t half bad, and it gave Gregg Popovich something to chew on during the off day.
Ball security: D. The Thunder committed 16 turnovers, which is bad enough. Worse yet, they came in bunches, fueling San Antonio momentum. After the Thunder clawed back into the game and took a 78-77 lead, it went seven straight possessions without scoring. Three of those were consecutive turnovers – charges by Jackson and Durant, sandwiched around a Westbrook fumble – and the Spurs went in front 85-78. When the Thunder still had a pulse, trailing 103-93 with 51/2 minutes left, Derek Fisher threw away a no-look pass. Then Westbrook got caught in the air, tossed a pass back out to the key that Leonard swiped and turned into a layup. The Spurs led 106-93 with five minutes left and the game was over.
Bench: B. The Thunder bench was a man down, with Collison moving into the starting lineup, and depth is a San Antonio strength. Yet the Thunder reserves outscored the Spurs’ 47-43. Fisher was superb, with 16 points, including 11 in the first half to help OKC stay within striking distance. Reggie Jackson (13 points) had his usual good game against the Spurs. But the Thunder let Manu Ginobili get hot. After going scoreless in the first half, Ginobili scored 18 points, including 15 after the Thunder’s last lead, 78-77. Some of Ginobili’s points came in garbage time, but Ginobili made three baskets in the final four minutes of the third quarter, when the Spurs retook command.