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Thunder-Spurs: When it was needed most, OKC's defense faltered

COMMENTARY — The Spurs’ dominating third quarter and near-flawless overtime came without San Antonio’s best player — Tony Parker — and against an Oklahoma City squad that couldn’t summon enough defense.
by Jenni Carlson Published: June 1, 2014

That’s some great late-game defense. Seven possessions. Only four points.

But then came overtime. The Spurs scored nine points on their first eight possessions, capped by that Duncan turnaround with Jackson on him and Westbrook closing.

Duncan had hit a shot earlier in the overtime when he was one-on-one against Ibaka. The Spurs cleared out. The Thunder offered no help. It was a great battle, but Duncan executed one of those fundamental but effective back-down moves that he’s been doing for years and hit the basket.

Same for the big shot vs. the two Thunder guards with 19.4 seconds left.

“By the time I turned, I saw him coming,” Duncan said of Westbrook, “but I was already in the middle of my shot, so I just tried to get up as much as I could and finally got a roll.”

Durant got a good look at a three after that, but when it bounded off, the Thunder was forced to foul. Even though the Thunder didn’t hit enough shots late, the bigger issue was not quite getting enough stops. Not in the game. Not in the series.

Overall, the Spurs shot just 40.4 percent, but they scored 44 points in the paint and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds that led to 22 second-chance points, way too many for the Thunder.

The defense just wasn’t good enough.

“You could say that,” Westbrook said, “but … we left it on the floor. They made some plays at the end, and they won.”

No one is faulting the Thunder’s effort. That was plenty good Saturday night.

It was the defense that was at fault, not just in Game 6 but in every loss in these Western Conference Finals. For a franchise that prides itself on defense, that talks incessantly about how it’s defense first, this series should be a walk-up call.

It’s one thing to say all the time that you play good defense. It’s another thing to do it.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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