Thunder’s Length Smothers Spurs
(Scott) Brooks has always been able to get the Thunder to play hard. It’s a strength of his, and it shouldn’t be dismissed. Effort goes a long way in the grind of an NBA season, and it’s helped deliver the Thunder from a 23-win season to consecutive trips to the West finals. So when (Kevin) Durant says, “Coach just said we need to play harder, and that’s what guys did tonight,” he believes it.
Yet Brooks did more than motivate over those two days, and that’s why the Thunder aren’t down 3-0. He and his staff watched film and made a few changes. The Spurs’ point guard, Tony Parker, had carved up the Thunder in Game 2, so Brooks assigned 6-foot-7 Thabo Sefolosha to defend him. Manu Ginobili, too, had broken down Oklahoma City with his penetration in the first two games, so Brooks had the Thunder switch on pick-and-rolls. Brooks also ignored calls to sit his starting center, Kendrick Perkins, instead coaxing a better performance from him, urging Perkins to meet the Spurs’ guards earlier.
“They used their length,” Tim Duncan said, “and it really affected what we were doing.”