Thunder’s big problem against the Warriors

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The Thunder dominated San Antonio with their big two.

No, not Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Their BIG two.

Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.

Oklahoma City turned its second-round series against the Spurs by playing its two centers together – a lineup used in just 127 regular-season minutes and not at all in a Game 1 blowout loss to San Antonio. Starting in Game 2 against the Spurs, Adams and Kanter took over. In the series:

  • Thunder with Adams and Kanter on the floor: +27 in 66 minutes
  • Thunder otherwise: -30 in 222 minutes

Oklahoma City outscored San Antonio by 21.8 points per 100 possessions with Adams and Kanter sharing the floor, making it the most effective of the team’s 25 most-used two-man units in the series. Durant and Westbrook (+4.0) didn’t come close.

When Adams and Kanter played together, the Thunder grabbed 45.1% of available offense rebounds and 84.1% of available defensive rebounds – marks that would’ve led the NBA by miles.

The duo dictated the series.

But can Adams and Kanter sustain that success against the Warriors in the conference finals?

Golden State is just so much better equipped to expose Oklahoma City’s weaknesses – namely, speed – with Adams and Kanter on the floor.

The Spurs scored just 15 fastbreak points in 66 minutes against Adams and Kanter, which is right in line with their 14 fastbreak points per 66 minutes in regular season (27th in NBA).

The Warriors led the NBA with 28 fastbreak points per 66 minutes during the regular season. They were built to run, and Oklahoma City – which turned the ball over a lot during Adams-Kanter minutes – will provide opportunities. Can Adams and Kanter keep up in transition?

What about even against Golden State’s halfcourt offense, which features plenty of movement to create open looks on the perimeter?

San Antonio shot 9-for-28 (32%) on 3-pointers in its 66 minutes against Adams and Kanter. Warriors regular-season average per 66 minutes on 3s: 18-for-43 (42%).

One of Adams and Kanter – likely Kanter – can guard Andrew Bogut against the Warriors’ starting lineup. But that means the other must cover Draymond Green, who excels on the perimeter. Even if Adams can hold his own away from the basket, pulling him away leaves Kanter as the last line of defense – a scary proposition for Oklahoma City.

And then Golden State will go small.

When Green and Harrison Barnes are the bigs, there will be nowhere to hide Adams and Kanter. The Warriors will run and move the ball, and if history is any indication, Adams and Kanter will be lost. That Stephen CurryKlay ThompsonAndre Iguodala-Barnes-Green lineup has run plenty of centers off the floor. It could wreak havoc on two.

Adams and Kanter will still create problems. The Thunder will probably dominate the offensive glass, and they’ll grab a high percentage of defensive rebounds – though that matters far less if Golden State doesn’t miss.