Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook looked defeated following Oklahoma City’s Game 1 dismantling at the hands of the Spurs. When asked if he could describe his feelings after the game, Durant pivoted his focus to Game 2. “Because it’s over with,” Durant explained. “Move on. We just move past it and figure out what we have to do better. No crazy emotions. It’s not like we were upset and screaming at each other in the locker room after the game. That’s not going to make things better. We’ve just got to go out there and play better. So, no emotions.”
The concern for Oklahoma City backers is the fact that the Thunder have never played well in San Antonio, amassing a 1-6 record at the AT&T Center in the NBA Playoffs with an average margin of defeat of 25.1 points in those six losses. Yikes! Adding to Oklahoma City’s dilemma is the fact that the Spurs are 25-4 in best-of-seven series after winning Game 1 under head coach Gregg Popovich. And, only three teams have come back to win a playoff series after losing Game 1 by 30 or more points.
However, if there is a team capable of responding after suffering such a humiliating loss it’s the Thunder, who are 4-1 ATS in their last five games off a double-digit loss and 9-3 ATS in their last twelve games versus teams with a winning record, including 7-2 ATS in their last nine road games versus foes with a .601 or greater home record.
Meanwhile, San Antonio is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight games off a double-digit win and 1-5 ATS in its last six games versus .601 or greater opponents. The Thunder are also 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings in this series.
Oklahoma City possesses an explosive offense that is averaging 110.1 points per game on 47.5% shooting from the field, and the Thunder were 25-19 SU on the road this season where they averaged 111.1 points per game on 47.7% shooting from the floor. While the coaching mismatch in this series is significant (I have Billy Donovan rated in the bottom 3rd of my rankings), I expect the first-year coach to emphasize more pick-and-role plays between Westbrook (ball handler) and Durant (screener).
I say that because this pick-and-role combination averaged 1.19 points per direct pick against the Spurs over the past three seasons (including NBA Playoffs). Oklahoma City will also need greater contributions from Steve Adams, who is vastly improved, and Enes Kanter. The coaching mismatch concerns me, there is no questions about that.
Poppovich is the best coach in the league and known for making excellent mid-series adjustments to keep his opponent off-balance. But, I was also impressed with the steady leadership of Donovan following the Thunders’ Game 2 loss to Dallas.
Finally, both head-to-head matchups at full strength were decided by 8 points or fewer so the point spread for Game 2 appears to be an overreaction San Antonio’s blowout win in Game 1. Grab the generous points as Oskeim Sports Free Pick for Monday.
Oskeim Sports’ Free NBA Playoffs Sports Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (+7.5)