I was so devastated by Thursday night’s events that I resorted to bullet points. And unlike the Spurs, I brought energy too. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
- Fittingly, the last time I saw the Spurs play such uninspired and sloppy basketball was against the Los Angeles Lakers in April, which also happened to be the last time they lost before Thursday night’s thrashing. Like that game back in April, the Spurs were a mess in Game 3. They were plagued by turnovers, poor defense, and failed to match their opponent’s energy. As many of the Spurs players conceded after the loss, Game 3 was a good old fashion butt whooping. I concur.
- I’m ok with losing. While I would have loved for the Spurs to blow through the playoffs at 16-0, I expected them to lose at some point. I just didn’t expect them to get punked at the same time. That’s right, the Spurs got punked in Game 3. In addition to losing, the Spurs allowed the Thunder to push them around, mouth off, and stare them down. I know it’s the Spurs way to ignore such nonsense, but as Steve Kerr (a former Spur) mentioned during the broadcast, the Spurs needed to drop the “cool, calm and collective” act and bring a little more ferocity. I mean come on, James Harden stared a hole in Tiago Splitter’s face for a solid five seconds and not one Spur came to Splitter’s defense. Bruce Bowen would never have allowed Game 3 to go down as it did. Bowen would’ve undoubtedly spent the 4th quarter getting under the skin of the young Thunder and setting the tone for Game 4 and the rest of the series. Only Stephen Jackson brought energy in the 2nd half. I’m not saying the Spurs should have resorted to the tactics of the Indiana Pacers. However, if the Thunder wants to add a little extra sauce to the series, I think it’s good for the Spurs to respond for the sake of a teammate’s dignity.
- With that said, if I’m Gregg Popovich, I put together a video of all the Thunder’s antics from Game 3 and play that video on a continuous loop throughout Friday’s practice. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought the Thunder closed out the series on Thursday night. I hope the Spurs were paying attention. More importantly, I hope they want to do something about.
- The Spurs need more, much more, from Tim Duncan. Age, fatigue, a funk; whatever it is, Duncan needs to find a way to fight through it. San Antonio can’t win without Duncan playing at a high level. He doesn’t need to drop 20 points or pull 18 rebounds. He does, however, need to protect the ball, keep the Thunder off the offensive glass and stay within his game. Nearly every shot Duncan took in the post in Game 3 he was fading away from the basket. Obviously, Duncan isn’t the same player he was five years ago when he could get any shot he wanted in the post at any time. Since this isn’t five years ago, Duncan needs to make a concerted effort when he goes into the post to go toward the basket or dish it out for a better look. But most importantly, he needs to protect the ball. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all had two turnovers early in the 1st quarter. As the tone setters for the Spurs, that can’t happen.
- All year long the Spurs have relied on their depth to win games. Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter were big in Game 1. Kawhi Leonard was big in Game 2. In Game 3, no one was there to pick up the Spurs when Duncan and Ginobili struggled. Specifically, Danny Green and Matt Bonner need to step it up. Outside of a solid 1st quarter in Game 2, Green has been off for most of the series. Bonner’s been off for the better part of a month. The Spurs need both to contribute.
- Though the box score only reflects a rebound differential of three, it seemed like the Spurs were abused on the boards. Splitter is clearly rattled. Duncan had two boards in 26 minutes. The Spurs need an energy player in the paint. Enter DeJuan Blair. Blair has a place in this series. As ugly as it looks at times, Blair finds a way to get boards and score off of put-backs. He’s a brute, he’s tough, and he has the highest motor of any Spur not named Manu Ginobili. Sure, he makes the Spurs vulnerable to the Thunder getting to the rim, but I think the Spurs need to work Blair into games just to get the team excited and keep the energy level up. The Spurs sorely lacked energy in Game 3.
- Finally, the Spurs need to protect the ball. The Spurs are the better basketball team. The Thunder has better players and more athleticism. Turnovers drastically shift the game to favor the Thunder. Parker needs to (and will) adjust to the larger Thabo Sefolosha guarding him. Adjusting means not forcing the ball, being patient, and trusting his ability to get into the lane and create open shots for his teammates. Parker was still effective in Game 3. He shot 50%, converted in the paint and even buried a couple of threes. It was his five turnovers that hurt the Spurs and took him off his game.
- Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the Thunder was desperate. Their season was on the line last night. Conversely, the Spurs hadn’t lost in over a month. Getting clocked in the face in the fashion the Spurs were in Game 3 brings a lot of clarity. I expect a more focused and spirited effort from the Spurs in Game 4. Though, I expect an equally desperate performance from the Thunder, so we could be in for a drawn out series if the Spurs don’t fight back on Saturday night.