NBA head coaches do not always command the full attention of their teams during timeouts in February. Their guys are sometimes watching the Red Panda as the coach sketches out an inbounds play on his dry erase clipboard.
Sometimes that’s even understandable.
In late May, however, with the playoff stakes driving all eyes towards that coach’s every word, a guy like Gregg Popovich or Scott Brooks can win you a game or two by what he draws out on that same board. These seven-game series are usually won by a series of adjustments. Whichever team makes and executes those best ones wins.
For the San Antonio Spurs heading into Game Two, there are not too many things they might want to change.
Maybe play with that “nasty” Pop was looking for a little sooner. Go wire to wire with nastiness possibly. But, other than that, the Thunder will have to adjust to what the Spurs did in Game One if they want to even things up.
Which means Oklahoma City will have to stop allowing San Antonio to execute like a fleet of basketball-playing machines, calibrated at the highest levels of Naismithian deadliness, and try to at least bother them some on that end of the floor.
I’m not sure how they do that though (NBA teams have tried and failed at it all year). Tony Parker and Tim Duncan look like the same two guys who swept LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers five seasons ago, so it will be difficult.
But while the Spurs should not change much, if anything, I do not think, the only “adjustment” I would make if I was them is to keep letting Russell Westbrook shoot more.
Nothing against Russell, and I know he is going to hit his fair share, but I would keep doing everything I could to make sure Durant is double- and triple-teamed. Take him as far out of the game as possible. Then let Westbrook take him the rest of the way out of it by leaving him open and allowing him to shoot as many 18- to 22-foot jumpers as he can before his arm falls off.
Offensively for San Antonio I do not change a thing. Defensively I would not really change anything there with Westbrook either, because I think that was Pop’s idea to an extent heading into the first one.
If I am Oklahoma City, I need to run some sort of set where Kevin Durant catches the basketball coming off a screen heading toward or attacking the basket. Maybe he even needs to post up at the top of the key, catch the ball at that proveribal place they call the nail at the top of the free throw line, and let him go to work from there.
I would also play Serge Ibaka more because he is one of their best players, especially at the defensive end where Manu Ginobili and company had free reign into the paint throughout the fourth quarter. I may even play Kendrick Perkins less because he does not really do anything to impact the game at all. Playing Perk over Ibaka last time out was a mistake. Sitting Serge as much as they did in general was a mistake too. Ibaka is needed to defend the rim, Perkins is not doing that.
Offensively, I would tell Russell to be careful settling for those jump shots too. I would want him aggressive, don’t want to take that shot out of his hands, but he also has to know that nobody can really guard him if he attacks the rim anyways even if the jumper is there.
He is a freak athlete, and I am not sure Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan can block his shot in there.
The last thing I do if I am Oklahoma City is hope that Harden snaps the hell out of his shooting funk from Game One. He cannot have that game he had last time out if the Thunder want to make this a series.
Durant will play better because he’s Durant. Ibaka will play more because Brooks had to see the same things I just mentioned. Westbrook will miss some shots but he is more mature than he was last year. But Harden needs to ball the hell out.
If he doesn’t, the Spurs may wrap this thing up before the Thunder ever get that chance to wear them down. Game Two tonight at 8:30 ET.