Thunderstruck in San Antonio
After Going 8-0 in the playoffs, the Spurs faced the up and coming OKC team. This team was obviously young, lacked a true lowpost presence, and was beatable ( Spurs won season series 2-1). The Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, but this time it was slightly different. In the first 2 games of the last few series the Spurs manhandled their opponent. In game one verses the Thunder, the Spurs were knocked back in the first 3 quarters, until the offense of Ginobili and the defense of Stephen Jackson bailed them out for a late victory. In game two, the Spurs returned the favor and got out to a convincing lead. The Thunder never gave up and fought back only to lose by 9. The end of game 2 spelled possible trouble for the rest of the series. After defensive adjustments by the Thunder and poorly timed meltdowns from Spur role players the Thunder won four games straight and ended the Spurs season and advanced to the NBA Finals.
All in all a very succesfull season for the Spurs. The young guns contributed much more than expected and gave the Spurs a reason to believe in the future. With Tim Duncan’s hefty contract coming off the books and a good chance he’ll resign for significantly cheaper, the Spurs have an opportunity to pick up better, mentally tougher role players to replace some of the ones that didnt fair well.
Tim Duncan - 17 pts 9.8 rbs 2.3 blks
The numbers look good, but the reality is that Duncan got those numbers by playing more minutes than he usually does. The lowpost defense of Kendrick Perkins and shotblocking ability of Serge Ibaka had Duncan playing indecisive and at times soft. Kevin Garnett of the Celtics shoots jumpers without hesitation, for a while Duncan did just that. In the WCF, Duncan hesitated and was unsure of what he wanted to do. Eventually Duncan ran out of gas (most notably in the second half of game 6).
Kawhi Leonard – 8.8 pts 7.3 rbs
Leonard did pretty much everything you can ask from a rookie, especially in this series. He did his best to defend Kevin Durant. He played a lot of power forward next to Duncan at center but still held his own on the boards. More amazing is the circumstances he did it in. During this series, lineup changes were made because most of the role players couldn’t handle the pressure that OKC was throwing at them, which lead to DNP-CD’s and limited minutes for them. Because of this, Leonards minutes were increased (41 minutes in game 6 / 30 min avg for series) and he performed well.
Boris Diaw – 5.8 pts 4.8 rbs
Diaw didnt really do anything negative in the series, he also didnt do much positive as well. Basically he didnt do much of anything. His basketball IQ and passing really didnt lead to much production; some games he rebounded well, others he didn’t. He wasn’t running around making poor plays, but he wasn’t a difference maker and simply ate up minutes this series.
Tony Parker – 21.5 pts 6.3 ast
Parker against Westbrook was a key to the Spurs winning this series. Westbrook at times forces the issue and forgets about his teammates (Durant in particular). If Parker simply ran the show and didnt make it a one on one game I figured the Spurs would be poised to win. In games 1-2 and 6 Parker went after Westbrook, the problem was that more than half the role players that Parker had at his disposal during the regular season went missing in action. Parker had to work a lot harder in the latter part of the series and although he had a sensational first half in game 6 (21 pts 10 ast/ finished with 29 pts/12 ast) he along with the remaining Spurs got tired and worn down by the athletic Thunder.
Manu Ginobili 18.5 pts 3.3 ast 3.8 rbs
After coming off the bench for most of the season and playoffs, Ginobili – being one of the few Spurs that had heart – started game 5 of the series. Manu immediately had an impact and poured in 34 pts, but it wasn’t enough for the Spurs to win the pivotal game 5. In game 6 Ginobili played more minutes than he was used to and didnt have alot to give en route to a 107-99 loss to the Thunder. While his scoring in the series was up and down, Ginobili did what he could in other areas of the game as usual. However, like many of the Spurs ballhandlers/playmakers the length and athleticism of the Thunder forced him into ill-advised turnovers.
Stephen Jackson – 11.8 pts 61% 3pt fg
It had been a decent run in the playoffs for Jack, but when the chips were down he rose to the occasion. In game 1 Kevin Durant needed to be held in check and thats exactly what Jackson did. On the defensive end he got “Nasty” with Durant and hit a momentum shifting three pointer and helped the Spurs win game 1. In game 6 he showed true grit. With the Spurs bench cut in half due too poor play, Jackson logged big minutes and produced 5/6 from behind the arc and refused to go down without a fight. He jawed with TNT analyst and Thunder assistant coach Mo Cheeks, and gave it his all. It’s no secret why the Spurs traded for him.
Gary Neal – 6.5 pts 48% 3pt fg
Neal, battling illness for the latter part of the series, did what he could. He shot well, but the athletic Westbrook and the veteran Derek Fisher got the best of him. Going forward, hopefully his ballhandling and defense will improve next season.
The Spurs bench had been so dominant in the regular season and playoffs, which helped to keep the big 3′s minutes down. Tiago Splitter struggled with his free throws and overall play. Dejuan Blair could barely get playing time, and all this left too much on Duncan’s plate. Most notable however, was the decline of Danny Green and Matt Bonner. Green is a streaky shooter, but he was also hesitant and unsure of himself. His minutes were starting to dwindle after game 2 and by game 5 he was out of the starting lineup seeing spot minutes off the bench. His defense wasn’t bad, but his indecisive play on offense cost him. As for Matt Bonner who was key in this series because of his ability to draw out the Thunder’s big men once again came up short in pressure situations. For Matt Bonner its been four straight years of solid regular season play and in those same four seasons, terrible outings in the playoffs. Pop usually allows Bonner to work himself out of funks, but this time he pulled the string. Bonner played 2 minutes in game 4, 50 seconds in game 5 and was benched in game 6. The Spurs may try to part ways with the red rocket for a more reliable playoff shooter.
It was a succesful season, but the Spurs have many big decisions to make. It starts with who to keep and who to get rid of. Duncan will most likely resign for cheaper allowing the Spurs to get a quality playoff performer. Is there another draft day trade in the works for San Antonio? Will Danny Green be resigned? Will Matt Bonner be dealt? Time will tell.
Date: June 11, 2012