With Serge Ibaka on the sidelines, the Spurs carved up Oklahoma City's defense, zipping through small lineups for an easy Game 1 victory.
Oklahoma City Thunder RECAP
105 - 122 SA leads 1-0
5 things to know
Know your role
Here’s a weird thing about the Spurs: Despite the presence of an all-time great big man, a perennial All-Star at point guard and an annual contender for Sixth Man of the Year, they are really a team of role players. They just all happen to play their roles exceptionally well.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs simply took turns executing their roles, and the end result was inevitable. In the first half, Tim Duncan dominated on the block. Manu Ginobili went off in the second half when the others were on the bench. Tony Parker was sublime with 12 assists and only one turnover. Kawhi Leonard jumped passing lanes and scored with ease. Danny Green scored 16 points on seven shots.
No one player was bigger than the game, and even Duncan sat out a long stretch of the fourth quarter when the game was still somewhat in doubt. When the Spurs play like this, they take on the form of a ruthless killing machine. You may stop one of them for a time, but you can’t stop all of them all of the time. -Paul Flannery
KD and Russ vs. the world
I can't remember the last time I saw Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook look tired.
For the first 6:51 in the second half, the Oklahoma City Thunder threw caution to the wind. KD and Russ scored every point as they went on a 16-5 run to give them a 76-75 lead. It was a glimmer of hope that only two of the five best players in the world can provide. But then the tank went empty.
The Spurs rotated in fresh bodies and Oklahoma City was unable to figure out who to tap in for relief. Durant and Westbrook were dragging in the mud. OKC's one-point lead was a seven-point deficit by the end of the quarter, and the final frame saw the Thunder unable to muster enough energy to get a quality look at the rim.
Oklahoma City’s best lineup proved to Westbrook, Durant, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha. The latter three had zero second-half points and only five combined for the whole game. Increased offensive contributions from these three will help lighten the load just a bit in Game 2. If that doesn't happen, Russ and KD just might have to get over 60 points combined and play all 48 minutes just for OKC to have a chance.
If only there was a rangy 6’10" power forward with quick feet, an ability to defend the rim and an automatic mid-range jump shot to join the party. -Eddie Maisonet
The man with the golden hands
The New York Times ran a nearly 1,200 word story on the mythology of Kawhi Leonard's hands on Sunday. It collected tall tales from teammates, college coach Steve Fisher and the man himself on the impossible size of Leonard's mitts. The way they tell it, Kawhi's hands might as well be capable of curing cancer, ridding the world of Darren Rovell and slapping the racism right out of Donald Sterling's cold, uninhibited head. They really are that devastating.
As Leonard spun through the Thunder defense on one end and swiped Russell Westbrook passes on the other, the gifts that make the Spurs forward special were never far from the mind in Game 1. What you might forget is that Leonard, now at the end of his third season, is still only 22 years old. He's even four months younger than Adreian Payne, the Michigan State big man who is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
The Spurs have a way of making their dominance look so easy that the public thinks it's boring, but no one has ever accused Leonard of being dull. He may keep the same stone faced look at all times, but his game speaks for itself.
When Leonard is poised and engaged, there are moments when it feels like there's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the San Antonio guillotine. Just ask Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of Oklahoma City. After Game 1, the Thunder are probably ready to write their own folk stories about just how destructive Leonard and those damn hands can be. -Ricky O'Donnell
Manu (and Baynes) saves the day
The third quarter was a dangerous time for the Spurs. The Thunder kicked their high-octane attack into gear and really started dialing up the defensive pressure. It mirrored so many Thunder-Spurs games of the past.
Even without Serge Ibaka, the Thunder had San Antonio's machine off kilter. They were thinking before moving the ball. Their offense was stagnant when it's usually free-flowing. Someone needed to step up and remind them that Ibaka was out of action. Someone needed to attack.
Manu Ginobili was that someone. Aided by mean screening from the unlikely Aron Baynes, Ginobili got into the teeth of San Antonio's defense and created opportunities. His dish to Baynes for a reverse layup was exquisite. Two beautiful moves led to layups to end the third quarter and pushed the lead back to nine. The Spurs never looked back. It was a smart strategy by Gregg Popovich to put Baynes in the game and trust that he could spring Ginobili, allowing Manu the opportunity to attack Oklahoma City's big men. It was also even better execution by Manu himself. -Mike Prada
Enough with the San Antonio women
You know when you put your foot in your mouth, only to follow it up by making it even worse as you try to cover up your own silliness? TNT's halftime crew did that on Monday night, beating a dead horse as Shaquille O'Neal tried to poke fun at Charles Barkley's ongoing quest to paint women from San Antonio as universally fat.
O'Neal held a photo of Barkley photoshopped as a large woman to a national audience, further evidencing that they clearly don't understand fat shaming or their own inability to work themselves out of the hole they've dug. Instead of the desired comedic effect, it came off as unnecessarily broaching a topic of conversation for a third time.
NBA on TNT's PR team is probably pulling its hair out over the gaffe, where leaving it out of the hands of the on-stage talent would have served them best. Comedy from the crew was not necessary, but an apology from Barkley would have sufficed. Since he didn't do that a week ago, it should have been made clear to the producers and talent that it would be wise to leave the well alone. -Dane Carbaugh
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers Eastern Conference Finals, Game 2Indiana leads 1-08:30 p.m. ET | ESPN Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.