The Spurs methodically took care of business at home in the series opener, like an elite team should, but in my opinion it’s not a predictor for how the rest of the series will play out. I mean, the Thunder weren’t particularly impressive in this game – Durant was blanketed down the stretch and Harden and Westbrook were subpar throughout – yet they were still leading in the fourth quarter (up by 9 points early) and were in a position to get the win. So going forward, if they start clicking the Spurs could be in trouble.
But you can’t deny it; with their Big Three firing (and healthy) the Spurs look damn good and will certainly take some beating.
3 votes – Manu Ginobili. The Spurs torched them in the fourth quarter with 39 points, and Manu Ginobili was at the heart of it. It was vintage Manu – 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 11 in the fourth quarter. He brought out the entire repertoire; he asserted himself early (and even hit a crazy fadeaway three-point buzzer-beater to end the first), set up his teammates with some nifty passes in traffic, and he put the dagger in with two hard drives to the basket late in the fourth. That’s just something we haven’t seen in a while; it was shades of the 2007-08 Manu. When this guy’s on, he’s really on.
2 votes – Stephen Jackson. Yes, that Stephen Jackson, but take no notice of the box score (5 points – although he did hit a big three down the stretch) because it doesn’t tell the story. It was his fourth quarter defense on Durant that was pivotal, which helped snuff out any chance the Thunder had to pull out the victory. With Jackson in his grill Durant failed to score a field goal in the final quarter, connecting on only six free throws in the period, a far cry from his usual work. Personally, I didn’t think Jackson was capable of that, and maybe Durant was just off. But it was a gritty effort nonetheless on the game’s most imposing scorer.
1 vote – Gary Neal. Tim and Tony were great as usual, but Gary Neal gets the nod here. This guy can flat-out shoot the ball and he does it with confidence. He popped up in the critical moments, hitting some huge shots (12 points on 5-for-9 shooting) and drawing a couple of charges, which helped swing the tide for San Antonio. He’s an underrated player and a perfect fit for the San Antonio system, and as a free agent in the offseason he would be wise to stay put where his talents are maximised. If he decides to leave (which would be good for Patty mind you) and lands with the wrong team, he’s the sort of player that may fade into obscurity, which would be a shame.