What did we learn from the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Game 3, 102-82 streak-ending blowout of the San Antonio Spurs?
First and foremost, defense wins championships. Oklahoma City tried to outscore the Spurs in the first two games of the series and found itself staring at an unsightly 2-0 deficit. We knew Scott Brooks had to make defensive adjustments in order to slow down the Spurs. Who would have thought the move by Brooks to shift defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha over to check Tony Parker would have had such a definitive impact on Game 3 and the series?
Sefolosha’s defense (6 steals) was key to the Thunder holding the Spurs to a playoff low 82 points. His ability to slow down Parker and wreak havoc on the Spurs' vaunted pick-and-roll also freed up Russell Westbrook, who arguably played his best defensive game in recent memory. Westbrook (4 steals) utilized his length and quickness on the defensive end and reminded many of the skill set that earned him Defensive Player of the Year his final season at UCLA.
The entire Thunder roster committed to defending better and that mindset is why the Western Conference Finals is now a series.
For one glorious night inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder remembered they are the up and coming power many predicted to win the NBA Championship. It appeared the Thunder, especially Westbrook, made a conscious decision to...play like the Spurs! Unselfish team basketball was the Game 3 theme and if Oklahoma City decides to play team basketball moving forward, this series will take a dramatic turn.
The Thunder remain 3½-point favorites on the Don Best odds screen with the total of 202½.
Let’s call it what it is. The Spurs were due for a subpar performance. San Antonio had played at such a high level for such an extended period of time, and was bound to eventually lose a basketball game. Not taking anything away from the Thunder and how well they performed in Game 3, San Antonio is still the team to beat. Who better to make in-series adjustments than Gregg Popovich? Who better to execute the coach’s game plan than Parker?
Expect the Spurs to return to their efficient offense featuring ball movement and unselfish play, which was prominently on display during their 20-game win streak. The Spurs cannot afford to turn the ball over vs. the Thunder 21 times and hope to stay close in Game 4. It will be safe to assume that Popovich and his Spurs have heard their wake up call loud and clear.
The 'over' is 4-2 in the six meetings this season; look for an up-tempo game Saturday in Oklahoma City.