Tom Ley of Deadspin: “So now Brooks is saddled with a catch-22 of sorts: Does he play his big lineup and ask Westbrook and Durant to be superheroes for 48 minutes, or does he pray that his small lineup can find a way to protect the paint? Neither option is ideal, but at least the former puts his team’s fate in the hands of his superstars. That’s usually not a bad place for an NBA team to find itself, but the Spurs have been spitting in the eye of anyone who utters “it’s a superstars’ league” for a decade now. Durant and Westbrook are two of the brightest in the league, but the Spurs are a damn black hole.”
Ian Levy of Five Thirty Eight: “Durant, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson are fantastic, but their size offers less resistance at the rim than a guy nicknamed “Iblocka.” During the regular season, those three players combined to defend 6.3 shots at the rim per game. On Monday night, they defended 16. The Spurs made 12 of them. In Game 2, there may be an opportunity to play Steven Adams more minutes, but the Thunder simply don’t have the bodies to avoid these small lineups. If they can’t figure out how to assemble a better defensive structure with the players available, this series might not last long.”
Thabo, who had a calf strain similar to Ibaka’s said he might’ve been able to rush back “in a few days” if the situation was dire.
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com: “Durant needs to use his long arms to be a disruptor. Extend those arms sideways to block passing lanes. Hold the hands high to distract shooters. In the regular season Durant’s scoring and assists hit new career highs. But his rebounds and blocked shots dipped slightly. The Thunder needed more offense with Westbrook missing almost half of the Thunder’s games dealing with surgeries for the knee he injured in last year’s playoffs. Westbrook is back now, but Ibaka is out. It’s up to Durant to adapt to the changing needs of his team.”
Brian Phillips of Grantland on Westbrook: “When he’s hurt, OKC feels not just worse but smaller. Durant is a glorious basketball player in just about every way. He’s glorious partly because he’s capable of playing the game in exactly the way he imagines it. But no one is capable of playing the game in exactly the way Westbrook imagines it. He raises the stakes just by walking into the arena. Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see; Westbrook sees a target no one else would even recognize as a target. And once you’ve looked at the moon, how are you supposed to aim at anything else? He’d be the only player in the NBA to vote for an 11-foot rim.”
Darnell Mayberry on positives: “The third quarter ultimately was the Thunder’s best defensive period. By far. San Antonio scored just 22 points, the only period the Spurs tallied less than 30 points, and went 8-for-22 in the frame. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard combined to score just three points on 1-for-10 shooting in the period. Parker, who was scoreless in the quarter, dished only two of his 12 assists.”