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Thunder-Spurs Game 6: Young guns firing

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
The question going into the Western Conference Finals was mostly about how the Thunder would stop the all-destroying machine of the San Antonio Spurs. Shockingly, the opposite has worked its way free in this series, with the Thunder on the verge of winning the series 4-2 at home in Game 6 on Wednesday night.

It shouldn't have surprised us so much, but it turns out that relying on quality offensive weapons like James Harden and Russell Westbrook is a better plan than hoping Danny Green and Matt Bonner can continue to light it up from the perimeter. In particular, in Game 5, the Thunder did some things to break that perception that their offense is overly simplistic and only features ISO's.

For starters, they ran things that utilized their best weapons, like this play with Russell Westbrook and James Harden.



With 16 seconds on the shot clock, Parker braces for the screen, which never comes as Westbrook jets by him going away from the screen. You'll watch Duncan rotate to challenge, which means -- surprise! -- Manu Ginobili is trying to guard two perimeter options on the drive and kick. He guesses wrong and Harden winds up with a look. But Ginobili hustles back just enough to freeze him. The good news here is Harden stays aggressive.

Driving past Harden, Boris Diaw helps to try to interrupt Harden's drive as Duncan now rotates to the opposite side of the floor. Parker's now stuck wrestling with Kendrick Perkins, which means, guess what, Russell Westbrook has leaked back out to the opposite wing. And again, the Thunder stay aggressive as Parker's desperation to close out on the three frees the driving lane for Westbrook.

A slip past Duncan, interference from Perkins on both the weakside rotators, and-one for Westbrook.

Next we see a great example of how OKC's defense turned possessions into points quickly.



Off the block, Westbrook's pushing the ball. You see the Spurs' defense react in this situation with four defenders primed trying to get in front of him to make sure he doesn't dash to the rim. Instead of sending himself into the breach once more as he's often criticized for, Westbrook simply looks up and finds a trailing Harden. Transition threes are dangerous, but with the kind of rhythm the Thunder are in vs. the Spurs, it's not a bad option. The result is a bad play from Ginobili, who struggled with Harden all night, and a huge four-point play.

The Thunder aren't just out-hustling the Spurs, or out-shooting them. They're actually out-executing them, and that's not something anyone saw coming. The Spurs must turn that battle around in Game 6 to survive and extend the series.
 
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