San Antonio, TX, United States (4E Sports) – Without injured Serge Ibaka manning the paint, the Oklahoma City Thunder were easy pickings for the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Monday at AT&T Center.
The Spurs racked up a staggering 66 points in the shaded area en route to a 122-105 win over the Thunder, who will miss Ibaka for the rest of the season due to a calf injury.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks started veteran big man Nick Collison in Ibaka’s place but Tim Duncan dominated their match-up, scoring 21 of his 27 points in the first half.
Without Ibaka’s outstretched arms to distract them, the Spurs’ backcourt of Tony Parker, Danny Green and sixth man Manu Ginobili shot 19-for-31 for 49 points.
After shooting 44.2 percent against the Thunder in four regular season losses, the Spurs shot 57.5 percent from the field overall.
“We always want to try to penetrate,” Parker said. “We always want our ball movement, that’s how we play — kick and pitch and stuff like that. You know, obviously it’s a little bit better with (Ibaka) not being in the paint, but we’re still going to try to penetrate and make stuff happen.”
Aside from Ibaka’s absence, the Thunder failed to find a consistent third option on offense behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
“We’re a no-excuse team,” Brooks said. “Serge is out. He’s not coming back. We have to play better. We have to play better. If we expect to beat one of the best teams in basketball, and a very good offensive team, we have to play and we’re not going to make an excuse.”
The Thunder led for the first time midway through the third quarter, when Westbrook’s midrange jumper capped a 17-6 run in which he simply took over and led to Oklahoma City’s 76-75 edge .
Westbrook scored 12 points during the run, attacking the rim at will while hitting a three-pointer and assisting Durant on the other five points during that stretch.
However, the Spurs responded, finishing the quarter on a 14-6 run with Duncan and Ginobili doing most of the damage.
“We don’t believe in moral victories,” Durant said. “Third quarter was obviously our best quarter, but we didn’t close it out well. It’s Game 1, we’ve got to make adjustments and be better for the next game. We’re not taking no moral victories out of it.”