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Thunder-Spurs Game 5 Preview: Swing game

By Royce Young | NBA writer
The Thunder will try and keep their defensive assault going in Game 5. (Getty Images)


Previewing Game 5 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.

1. Where We're At: After handling business at home, the Spurs now find themselves evened up with the Thunder and looking at a pivotal Game 5. Things have changed. Early in the series it was about San Antonio's masterful execution and planning as the Thunder scrambled to cover open shooters. The two games in Oklahoma City saw a change in that. The Thunder seemed to find a formula to defend the Spurs' pick-and-roll, while also continuing to score well in their own right. The underwriting though is that the Thunder probably feel pretty strongly they already let one game slip away in San Antonio. And the reality is, they have to win at least once at the AT&T Center if they're going to take this series. Executing that in Game 5 means a chance to close at home Wednesday.

2. The Big Number: 96. The Spurs like to play fast. And when they do, they're deadly. In games this season (including the playoffs) where they had more than 96 possessions, they went 28-3. In games they had fewer, 22-14. Those are obviously pretty striking records there. The Thunder like to play fast in their own right, but in Game 4, a game in which OKC seemed to execute terrifically, it had only 91 possessions. The Spurs like to not just run, but initiate early offense leading to quick bursts of points. The Thunder like to do the same, but turning the game to more of a half court battle utilizes OKC's greatest weapons -- Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

3. Key Adjustment: The dirty little secret in this series is that the Spurs can't stop the Thunder. They largely won Games 1 and 2 by outscoring OKC, not by necessarily slowing it down. As much as the Thunder had to adjust to find an answer defensively to handle Tony Parker and the Spurs deadly offensive attack, the Spurs have to find a way to limit the Thunder. Durant is going to score, but the fact OKC's three primary bigs -- Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison -- went a combined 22-of-25 in Game 4 is disturbing for San Antonio. The Thunder are scoring at an extremely efficient rate and while the Spurs are a team built to fight offense with offense, they have to keep OKC's high-powered attack in check to some degree.

4. The Big Story: One team leaves San Antonio Monday night with the chance to advance to the NBA Finals Wednesday. One team takes a stranglehold on the series. If it's the Thunder, they sit very pretty as they return home to a place they've been unbeatable this postseason. If it's the Spurs, it means they have to go on the road to finish off, a tall task but possible. The series has split the home games. Does something give now or does the visitor still struggle?

5. The Facts: Tipoff at 9 p.m. ET. Both teams expect to have their full rosters available.
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