The four-time NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs got off on the right foot in their Western Conference Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a resounding 122-105 Game-1 victory. San Antonio took full advantage of the absence of Oklahoma’s Congolese-Spanish defensive expert Serge Ibaka, who is expected to miss the rest of the Playoffs with a calf injury. The Spurs scored 66 points in the paint (67.3%) as they allowed Tim Duncan to abuse the Thunder’s interior defense (or lack thereof). The “Big Fundamental” finished the game with 27 points and 7 rebounds. Despite being 38 years old, Duncan has learned to play “smarter” this year and paced himself better in the regular season.
Oklahoma City did their best to keep pace with the aging Spurs with the efforts of 2013-14 M.V.P. Kevin Durant and superstar guard Russell Westbrook. Durant scored 28 points, while Westbrook added 25, but San Antonio’s defense made the duo work extra hard to put those points on the board and the stars could not deliver much in the fourth period as the Spurs outscored the Thunder by 10, 33-23. Durant shot 1 for 4 in the final period.
“That’s the key with Kevin,” Popovich said. “You’re obviously not going to stop him, but making him work hard is certainly the plan. It’s everybody’s plan, no matter who he plays against, they’re going to make him work hard. I thought Kawhi was good, didn’t foul, but I think the team did a nice job behind him, helping him.”
Aside from Duncan’s excellent game, San Antonio got good production from Manu Ginobili off the bench with 18 points and three assists. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard each scored 16 points. Frenchman Tony Parker, who was cleared to play in Game 1 after complaining about a tight hamstring, was effective with 14 points and 12 assists.
As for the Thunder, they got some help from reserve guards Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson, who added 16 and 13 points respectively.
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks will now have to get creative and find ways to slow down Tim Duncan in Game 2. While Kevin Durant is capable of playing at power forward, defending Duncan and having to score a ton of points might be too tall an order even for this season’s most valuable player.