Saturday, May 31, 2014

Spurs @ Thunder Game 6: Battle of Adjustments

Although the series has been marked by blowout after blowout, the Western Conference Finals has been chess match between Scott Brooks and Gregg Popovich. While some may believe Brooks is playing checkers to Pop’s chess, the Thunder head coach made some shrewd adjustments to get his team back in the series. Sure, defensive stalwart Serge Ibaka recovered from injury in time for Game 3, but Brooks also inserted Reggie Jackson into the lineup, gave bigger minutes to rookie Steven Adams, and completely benched a few players. The way we see it, Brooks will have to pull a rabbit out of his hat again in Game 6.

So, what changes can the Thunder make to combat the spread-the-floor look that the Spurs befuddled Oklahoma City with in Game 5? The first would be to bench Kendrick Perkins, but that’s something the Thunder boss has never done. He’s really no more than a 15-20 minute per game player anymore, so he’s still locked into the starting lineup. No, Brooks’ rotation changes will likely have to come with his bench personnel. Wing players such as Caron Butler, Jeremy Lamb, and Thabo Sefalosha all should be prepared to play a few extra minutes.

That trio combined for 39 minutes and missed all four of the 3-point attempts on Thursday, but at least one of them HAS to show up tonight. It doesn’t matter whether they miss all threes that they attempt. Brooks must get another wing defender on the floor. If Pop continues to surround Tim Duncan with four shooters, the Thunder cannot have two bigs on the floor at the same time. Another 13-for-26 shooting effort from beyond the arc will mean certain defeat for Oklahoma City. Brooks has been known to make adjustments slowly or not at all, but he must to get them right in this do-or-die Game 6.

Join us tonight at 8:25pm ET to see if Scott Brooks and his Thunder adjust and force a Game 7!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who Takes Westbrook?

He’s always been a handful to defend, but is it time to start asking whether Russell Westbrook is a tougher player to guard than Kevin Durant? The Spurs probably think so. Westbrook is fresh off a 40 point, 10 assist, 5 rebound, and 5 steal effort in Game 4 – the first of its kind since MJ in the ’89 playoffs – leaving Gregg Popovich with some decisions to make heading into Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.

With Kawhi Leonard draped on Durant, the Spurs have a viable wing defender on the MVP. However, Tony Parker and Danny Green have proven ineffective when trying to hang with Westbrook. Pop hinted at some lineup changes in Game 5, so the player to watch for is Cory Joseph. The third-year guard from Canada helped the Spurs’ second-unit trim the Thunder lead from 28 down into single digits at the end of Game 4. No, he won’t shut down the Thunder point guard, but he may slow him down just enough.

No doubt about it, Oklahoma City has all of the momentum heading into Game 5. Yet, the series is still tied at 2 and the Spurs get two of the last three games at home. It’s not time to panic in San Antonio just yet. Join us tonight at 9pm for all the coverage of Game 5 and test your basketball knowledge against the rest of the world!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Which Front Court Shows up for Indiana?

How does 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert score 0 points four different times in one post-season? Maybe his team just isn't getting him the ball. In Game 4, he attempted just one shot in the 1st quarter. During Game 3 though, the Pacers ran the ball through Hibbert, getting him six shots in the opening period. Not only did this allow the big man to score 16 points in the contest, but it gave Indiana another half-court option when their offense inevitably went stale.

On the other side of the court, the Heat are looking thin across the front-line. Chris "Birdman" Andersen couldn't play in Game 4 due to a deep thigh contusion. Luckily for them, Chris Bosh dominated last game, but he generally struggles against Indiana's length. If Andersen can't go, look for the Pacers to attack the glass all night.

All of that said, if LeBron decides he wants to close out the series tonight, good luck to anyone in his way. Let's see if the king can get one step closer to retaining his crown. Download SnapCall on the App Store and Google Play, make your picks for tonight, and join in the fun at 8:30pm!