The Oklahoma City Thunder received devastating news before the Western Conference finals, when they were informed that Serge Ibaka would miss the remainder of the playoffs. As they head into Game Two against the San Antonio Spurs, the No.2 seed is already feeling the loss of their starter.
San Antonio took a 1-0 series lead with a convincing victory in Game One. The Spurs won by 17 points, totaling 122 points on the night.
Ibaka was a defensive force on the Oklahoma City defense. He ranked second in the regular season with 2.7 blocks per game. Without him on the floor, the Spurs took advantage, as five players scored at least 14 points. Tim Duncan led the way 27 points.
Oklahoma City knows Ibaka can’t help them, and the team that beat San Antonio four times this year will have to figure out a way to win without one of their best players.
“It’s not necessarily like, 'Serge is gone, replay Serge (and his role).' It's like, whoever is the five who are out there have to really play at a high level,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said. “The Spurs are great at moving the ball, finding the open man and eventually getting to the paint. We've got to be able to cut that stuff off so they're not getting in the paint and we're making them shoot jump shots over a hand instead of letting them get to the basket so much."
The Thunder have been in this position before. In the second round, they lost Game One to the Los Angeles Clippers, by the exact same score. They came back to win four of their next five games, and their only defeat came by two points.
This time, though, it might not be as easy for the Thunder to bounce back. The Spurs are playing as well as they have all season, which is pretty remarkable, considering they won 62 games before the playoffs. In the conference semifinals, they blew out the Portland Trail Blazers in all four of their wins. Their last six victories have all come by at least 15 points.
Tony Parker continues to shoot 50 percent from the field and make the case to be known as the NBA’s top point guard, as he outperformed Russell Westbrook. San Antonio has shown incredible depth, and continuous hot shooting from the likes of Danny Green and Manu Ginobili could make it a quick exit for Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant was efficient from the field in the series opener, scoring 28 points on 19 shot attempts. If the Thunder’s defense doesn’t improve, though, his scoring won’t be enough to help Oklahoma City steal a game on the road.
Player To Watch: Tony Parker
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Place: AT&T Center
TV Channel: TNT
Online Stream: TNT Overtime
Point Spread: Spurs 5.5 points
Prediction: San Antonio over Oklahoma City, 115-107