The second round heavyweight fight in the Western Conference between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs could see its final round tonight. The Thunder took a 3-2 series lead heading back home after winning Game 5 on the road in San Antonio.
The dynamic, superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have pretty much done it all for the Thunder this series. The two have combined to score or assist on 76% of the points scored by the Oklahoma City offense. In Game 5, they combined to score or assist on 80 of the team’s 95 points. Westbrook led the way with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. He did have eight turnovers, but he was unstoppable down the stretch and proved to be too much for the Spurs.
Durant had 23 points on 8-21 shooting, not one of his better nights, but enough to get the job done. In Game 4, Durant led the way by tying his career-playoff high with 41 points. Westbrook only scored 14 points, but dished out 15 assists. Westbrook’s performances came after scoring 31 points on 10-31 shooting. After the game he said he needs to do a better job of getting other guys involved. He has done that and then some since making that statement.
Now they have the opportunity to deliver the knockout punch to the Spurs. Many did not give OKC a chance against the Spurs, who were destined to meet up with the Golden State Warriors in a matchup of the league’s two best teams. This was especially true following Game 1 when the Spurs trounced the Thunder. Russ and KD now have a chance to have the last laugh and get back to the Western Conference Finals.
For the Spurs, the duo of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge need to do more. In the case of Leonard, he needs to be more aggressive, attack more and be more involved in the fourth quarter of Game 6. Over the last three games, he has shot 2-11 in the fourth quarter. In Game 5 he finished the first half 8-13 shooting, but that would not be maintained in the second half as he shot 2-4 in both quarters.
Aldridge was a highly coveted free agent las summer that the Spurs went out and signed to build around. In the first three games of this series, Aldridge was putting up big-time numbers, but has fallen off since. In Game 5, he shot just 6-21, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Does the spotlight make Aldridge nervous? It certainly seems that way as he has looked uncomfortable in the last three games. Or was it OKC’s moving Steven Adams on to him as a defender? Either way, he has to step his game up if the Spurs plan on going back to San Antonio for Game 7.
Were there questionable calls or non-calls for that matter during the fourth quarter of Game 5? Absolutely. However, those weren’t the sole reason the Spurs lost and now face elimination. San Antonio has led by double-digits in each of the past two games, but have failed to close the door. They were up by 6 with four minutes left, but could not close the game out. The Thunder were notorious throughout the regular season for not being able to close out games in the fourth quarter but are now showing that is just a thing of the past.
The Big Three’s time is slowly winding down. Tony Parker started off the series on a good note, but has faltered over the last three games. He scored nine points on 4-12 shooting, but forced some pretty bad shots in the fourth quarter after crucial turnovers by Durant and Westbrook. Tim Duncan’s NBA career looks to be on the brink of elimination, much like his Spurs season. Duncan is looking his age of 40 and it shows in his game. He scored five points in Game 5 in 28 minutes of action. This comes a game after he was held scoreless for the first time in his illustrious career. Mr. Duncan, you have a call on line one from Father Time. Manu Ginobili is a shell of what he used to be and is only averaging 6.8 points per game on 18.6 minutes per game.
History is on the side of the Thunder heading into Game 6 on Thursday night. When the Thunder have had a 3-2 series lead heading back home for Game 6, they are 4-0 since moving back to Oklahoma City. Another note favoring OKC is the fact that the Spurs are 2-10 when facing elimination on the road in the Gregg Popovich era.
Will a Game 6 win and advancement to the Western Conference Finals be enough to keep Durant in Oklahoma City? Regardless of this series outcome, will Durant decide to stay with the Thunder for one more season and then decide to pair up with Westbrook elsewhere? We aren’t close to getting the answers to those questions, but right now Durant and Westbrook only have only one thing on their minds; eliminating an arch nemesis.