Will Spurs protect home floor vs. Thunder?
Oklahoma City desperately needed a virtuoso scoring performance from its best player, and Kevin Durant responded in kind on Sunday. Can he make it back-to-back 40-point outings as the Western Conference semifinals continue tonight?
The Thunder and Spurs travel back to the Lone Star State for Game 5, with an 8 p.m. ET tip at AT&T Center. Oddsmakers at online sports book Bovada.lv like the five-time champs as 7-point favorites to break the 2-2 deadlock in the series. OKC, on the other hand registers as a +260 underdog. The over/under total sits at 200 points.
Facing the prospect of falling into a nearly impossible hole, Billy Donovan had no qualms about handing the rock to No. 35 over the weekend and simply getting out of the way. Durant exploded for 41 points in Game 4’s 111-97 triumph, hitting all six field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter. No matter how many defenders San Antonio threw at him, it failed to make a difference. The 6-foot-11 sensation repeatedly flashed the form that made him the 2013-14 MVP.
How do Gregg Popovich’s troops respond in several hours? For starters, Kawhi Leonard must produce in the clutch in a Durant-like manner. The Defensive Player of the Year went 0 for 5 in the final period of that 14-point defeat.
Of course, the Spurs’ supporting cast has considerable room to improve as well. After converting 33 of 44 shots in the first two contests, LaMarcus Aldridge has put up a total of 44 points on 16-of-39 shooting since then. There’s also the ultra-curious case of Tim Duncan. San Antonio’s no-longer-ageless wonder went without a single bucket on Mother’s Day. To reiterate: One of the greatest players in NBA history, for the first time in 249 playoff affairs, failed to get on the scoreboard.
Sooner or later, mortality had to arrive. The last few weeks of Duncan irrelevance, however, have been downright shocking. He saw 12 minutes of action in Game 4, trailing reserves such as Manu Ginobili, David West, Boris Diaw and Patrick Mills. Aldridge inhabits more of a stretch role these days, so it’s incumbent on Duncan to be the Spurs’ primary rim protector. Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka aren’t exactly cowering about the prospect of going at the San Antonio front line.
Not surprisingly, the more Adams and Ibaka do in the post, the better off Durant and Russell Westbrook will be in terms of spacing. We know that Tony Parker can’t hang with Westbrook on the defensive end, but he better hope that enough help arrives to hold Oklahoma City’s point guard relatively in check.
Popovich needn’t remind his veterans how crucial this tilt is. Going back to Chesapeake Energy Arena facing a 3-2 deficit can cause even the most seasoned group to break. Thankfully, the Spurs aren’t at the end of their rope yet.
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