NBA Roundhouse: May 31st, 2012

(Once again we’re skipping an intro because it’s late and I don’t have anything to say.)

Oklahoma City Thunder 102, San Antonio Spurs 82: Spurs lead series 2-1

May 31, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) waits to play defense against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half in game three of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won 102-82. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE

Hey, remember when the Spurs were going to sweep the entire playoffs? Yeah, about that.

As it turns out, not only is going 16-0 in the playoffs a nearly impossible task under the best of circumstances (for reference, even the 72-10 1996 Bulls lost three playoff games), the Thunder are actually pretty freaking good in their own right. After getting torched in game two, OKC made two key defensive adjustments, changing their pick and roll defense and putting Thabo Sefolosha — their best perimeter defender — on Tony Parker. Suddenly, the best offense in the NBA looked positively pedestrian as an offense that thrives on ball movement found itself forced into trying to exploit 1-on-1 matchups and being quite unable to do so.

For all that, the Spurs actually led by two after the first quarter. Things were going OK, but then the Thunder put the clamps on in the second quarter and turned up the heat offensively and suddenly the Thunder were up by double digits. The Spurs kind of, sort of hung around for a while, but then OKC delivered the death blow in the third and that was that.

Sefolosha not only brought it defensively, he showed up on offense too. He scored 19 — only three fewer points than he scored in the entire second round — and added 6 rebounds and 6 steals. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were weirdly quiet, compared to their usual level, but Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka (14 points, 3 blocks) stepped up to get the job done. KD had 22-6-5, below his normal line but great for anyone else, Harden had 15 off the bench and Westbrook had 10-7-9 with 4 steals even though he shot terribly. As a team, the Thunder got it done.

Everyone’s focus now turns to game four on Saturday. If the Thunder win, it’s a whole new series, albeit one in which San Antonio still has home court. But if the Spurs win, the series is all but over. Winning 3 consecutive games against the Spurs — winners of 20 in a row prior to tonight — is an all but impossible task. But 2 out of 3? Sure, why not? It’s unlikely, but not impossible.

Nevertheless, and regardless of how the series ultimately turns out, Thunder-Spurs has definitely lived up to the hype.

Friday, June 1st:

Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Game 3, 7:30 PM, ESPN

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