May 11, 2016, 9:10 am
When Russell Westbrook is at the peak of his powers, he can seldom be stopped, even when you try to foul him. More on that below. The Thunder shocked the Spurs for the second time in a row in the AT&T Center, an arena where the Spurs only dropped one loss all season. With only one game on the NBA slate on Tuesday, let’s recap the game in depth and take you around the association. It’s all here in Wednesday’s Daily Dish:
THUNDER 95, SPURS 91
The thirst for some semblance of an exciting postseason has been quenched in round two with nail-biting wins all around the conference semi-finals. Tuesday was no different. Russell Westbrook sealed an upset win over the Spurs with an And-1 with 6.3 seconds remaining with the Thunder up one as Kawhi Leonard unsuccessfully attempted to intentionally foul him a few seconds before (VIDEO).
The refs held their whistle on Kawhi’s attempt (Kawhi believes he “definitely fouled him”), resulting in Westbrook getting to the rim and getting fouled by LaMarcus Aldridge on an aggressive drive and made attempt for a three-point possession. Always finish the play.
The Spurs took an 88-82 lead with four minutes remaining when Westbrook channeled his inner beastmode. In those final four minutes, Westbrook had seven points, two rebounds and one assist. He finished 12-for-27 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line for 35 points with 11 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and three treys in 38 minutes. Russell was all hustle in crunch time.
The Thunder are built on the success of the two-headed monster between Westbrook and Kevin Durant. When one has an off night, the other shines at an all-star level. That was the case on Tuesday once again. Durant shot 8-for-21 from field and 5-for-6 from the line for 23 points with six boards, five assists, two steals, one block and two threes.
One key change to the lineup for the Thunder has been the combo of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter to finish games. Instead of Serge Ibaka (five points, four boards, one assist and one block in 29 minutes) getting the call late as he was for most of the season, Thunder coach Billy Donovan has used Kanter and it is paying dividends. Kanter played nearly the entire fourth quarter, finishing with eight points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes (four points, four rebounds and two blocks in the fourth quarter). Steven Adams mustached his way to 12 points, 11 boards, one assist and one steal.
“The key was physicality,” Kanter said. “Me and Steven just went and tried to get every rebound. It worked out well for both of us.” The Thunder outrebounded the Spurs 54 to 36. Expect the Thunder to stick with the Adams-Kanter combo to close out games moving forward.
It is astonishing that for all the Spurs success in the postseason, they have only rallied down from a 3-2 deficit once (2008 vs. New Orleans Hornets). They face a tall task but one that even Thunder fans know isn’t impossible.
The second-place finisher in the NBA’s MVP voting will need some help. Kawhi Leonard was very efficient on Tuesday, scoring 26 points (12-for-21 FGs, 1-for-2 FTs) with six rebounds, four assists, five steals and one three ball. He certainly filled the stat sheet. Aldridge wasn’t as efficient, shooting 6-for-21 from the field and 8-for-9 from the line for 20 points, nine boards, three assists, two steals and one block. For whatever reason, Enes Kanter is doing a much better job than Ibaka at slowing Aldridge down. Look for the Spurs to make some adjustments.
Danny Green had his patented breakout night to the tune of six triples for 20 points (7-for-10 FGs, 6-for-9 3PTs), three rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block. Any scoring production from Green is nice and usually results in a win, but the bench was no help. Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and David West shot a combined 5-for-18 from the field for 11 points. That won’t get it done on most nights.
The Spurs travel up I-35 to Oklahoma City for Game 6, trailing the Thunder 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is on Thursday.
AROUND THE ASSOCIATION
It’s no surprise: Stephen Curry is your 2015-16 NBA MVP. He is the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. Who can forget the 2012-13 MVP voting when LeBron James received all but one vote (one disgruntled voter chose Carmelo Anthony). Kawhi Leonard finished second this season with 54 second-place votes, and LeBron finished third with 40 second-place votes.
Hassan Whiteside (knee) did not travel with the Heat to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday. It doesn’t seem like he will be back for this series. Look for Miami to go small with Luol Deng, Joe Johnson and Josh Richardson with big roles. Justise Winslow could contribute in a big way as well. Choose your DFS lineups accordingly.
Dwane Casey spoke about DeMar DeRozan‘s injured thumb on Tuesday. He noted that DeRozan’s right thumb is a concern and that he will look at updating his substitution patterns. A hand injury does not make up for DeRozan’s decision-making and shot selection, which hasn’t always been very good to begin with. Casey will likely use the injury as a cover for his athlete’s’ struggles if they continue.
That will do it for today’s edition of the Daily Dish. Follow @HoopBallTweets for the latest news and notes on everything NBA-related. If you have any questions or comments on basketball, life or conspiracy theories, I’m @RiazD on Twitter. Enjoy the rest of your week!