Not so fast.
Since those two blowout wins, the three superstars have looked pretty mortal. Ginobili had a solid Game 3, but both Duncan and Parker struggled. Game 4 brought about much of the same and the result was identical — a Thunder win.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the stars for Oklahoma City in their 105-92 Game 4 victory. The two combined for 71 points and each shot 50 percent from the floor. The game plan was clear — the Thunder were going to live and die with their two stars. In all, they took 46 of the team’s 76 shots in leading Oklahoma City to the series tie.
Just as the Thunder offense has come alive, the Spurs’ has disappeared.
After the offense was on cruise control in Games 1 and 2, San Antonio had a difficult time for the second straight game. Tim Duncan was held to only nine points and six rebounds in 25 frustrating minutes. Ginobili played only 11 minutes, but looked bad when on the court, shooting only 2-8 from the field. Tony Parker had perhaps the best night of the three with 14 points, but had three turnovers to four assists.
Serge Ibaka was again a key player on the court. He had a modest nine points to go along with eight rebounds, but also added three blocks and more importantly, played solid defense against Duncan.
The big three are hardly the only ones struggling. San Antonio also isn’t getting enough from starters Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green as both are a combined 11 for 36 from the field in Games 3 and 4. I wrote recently about the importance of Green continuing his hot shooting from Games 1 and 2, but even if he were playing better, it’s hard to imagine it being enough for the Spurs in either Game 3 or 4.
One player making a difference in the series seems astonishing, but the Thunder seem completely energized with Ibaka around. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that a lot of Oklahoma City’s success has been in part to the strong play of Durant and Westbrook. The duo averaged approximately 40 points per game over the first two contests, but in Games 3 and 4, they’ve upped that to about 60. The pair are also rebounding more, have more assists, and are turning the ball over less in the two wins than in those initial two defeats.
With both Durant and Westbrook playing so well, it’s easy to see why the Thunder are making a run at San Antonio.
The ball is now back in the Spurs’ court … literally. The team returns home for Game 5 and it’s abundantly clear that the team’s trio of stars need to get back on track if they want to move on to the NBA Finals.