The main focus of the Oklahoma City Thunder's 105-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 will inevitably be the stellar play of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. It's hard to ignore Westbrook's historic line of 40 points, 10 assists and five steals, and it's hard to discount Durant perfectly complementing with 31 points of his own. It was an overwhelming display of athleticism and skill that the Spurs simply couldn't match.
They combined to shoot 23 of 46 from the field and were 13 of 18 from inside the restricted area. This duo at times looked as if there wasn't any worthy challenger on the floor. They glided in for scores inside. They pulled up for deadly jumpers. They accounted for 87 points combined when factoring in their scoring and assists, as opposed to the 44 points the Spurs' starters combined for in Game 4.
While most of the naysayers when it comes to the Durant-Westbrook combination have quieted their stances over the last two years, there still seems to be this persisting narrative that they'd be better without each other, as opposed to alongside one another. It simply doesn't seem to add up. Maybe they're vulnerable to a couple of hopeful contenders in the West -- and we don't know if they can figure out how to beat the Miami Heat in the Finals should they meet -- but their biggest hurdle for reaching the Finals is San Antonio, and they embody the reasons the Spurs can't seem to crack their code.
This only works with a relatively healthy Serge Ibaka in the lineup, because it's the overwhelming athleticism the Spurs simply can't solve. Long rebounds turn into quick points. Turnovers are almost a sure highlight. And the reason the Thunder can force the Spurs into these situations is they're off to the races at the fast twitch of a leg muscle. The Thunder dominated the fast-break points Tuesday night with a 21-0 effort.
This is started by the Thunder's defense and how they can release the hounds on the perimeter while protecting the rim with Ibaka inside. For the second straight game the exceptionally athletic Thunder held the Spurs under 40.0 percent shooting. It was just the eighth time this season, including playoffs, that the Spurs failed to reach 40.0 percent. Three of those games have come against the Thunder, all of them losses, and they're 3-5 overall in these games.
Oklahoma City simply keeps the Spurs from doing what they do the best in the West, and that's make shots. When they're missing shots, they're getting the ball to Durant and Westbrook in the open floor to score in a relentless manner. When they're in the half court, they're showing the same aggressiveness to get good shots or get to the free throw line. Westbrook and Durant combined for 21 made free throws in this game, while the Spurs attempted just 22.
When the Thunder have their full stable of horses ready to work on the defensive end, it frees the Durant-Westbrook combination to dominate on the offensive end. They may not play perfect basketball together at all times, but there isn't a single duo in the NBA that does. What they do accomplish is complementing each other perfectly on the basketball court over the long haul.
Unless the Spurs can figure out a way to break that defense, they won't be able to break the will of this dynamic duo the rest of this series.