Previewing Game 6 of the Spurs-Thunder Western Conference finals.
1. The Facts: 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT). Follow the action here. Everybody is healthy enough to play.
2. Where We Are: Remember all of the questioning about whether or not the San Antonio Spurs were headed for a repeat of the 2012 Western Conference finals when they went up 2-0 on the Oklahoma City Thunder before dropping the next four? Game 5 in San Antonio squashed any chance of that happening. We've had five blowout victories in this series after the Spurs were all over the Thunder in Game 5. The Spurs won Game 1 and Game 2 in convincing fashion before the Thunder rolled back in Game 3 and Game 4 behind the dramatic return of Serge Ibaka from his calf injury.
But none of that athletic advantage for OKC mattered in Game 5. The Spurs started out small with Matt Bonner in the lineup for Tiago Splitter in an attempt to pull Ibaka away from the rim. With the floor spread, the Spurs did what they do to pretty much every team in the NBA: they put them on their heels. Instead of getting a big portion of their points inside, they used dribble penetration as a ruse in an effort to bomb away from the 3-point line in their easy victory.
3. The Big Number: 13. The Spurs were the most accurate team from 3-point range this season by knocking down 39.7 percent of their long-distance attempts. In Game 5 against the Thunder, they knocked down 13-of-26 from downtown, which almost guarantees them a victory this year. The Spurs are 10-2, including the playoffs, when they make at least 13 3-pointers in a game. When they make at least 50 percent of their threes, they're 13-3. You have to find a way to run this team off the 3-point line and contest everything.
4. Key Adjustment: Perhaps the Thunder should also go small? Whatever happened in Game 5 clearly didn't work for the Thunder and maybe it was a bit of an aberration to some degree, but OKC was chasing the ball all night and couldn't catch up. Would a smaller lineup play into the hands of the Spurs or could it accentuate the athletic advantage that has mostly carried them against the Spurs the last two years? Most people would advocate for less Kendrick Perkins in the lineup for OKC, so it's not a hard sell by any means. But the Thunder have to be able to run the Spurs off the 3-point line while still protecting the rim and a smaller lineup could accomplish that if they can keep their defensive balance.
5. The Big Story: A playoff series doesn't truly start until the home team loses a game. That's the old cliché. At this point in the Western Conference finals, that won't apply at all. If the Thunder lose Game 6, they're going home. If the Spurs lose at home in Game 7, it's over anyway. But why has home court advantage come roaring back in this playoff series after being absent from much of the postseason? Will it keep up in Game 6 to ensure we get a Game 7 in San Antonio? And if we do get that Game 7, do the Thunder even have a chance on the road?