The Thunder showed off their improved defense in Game 1; the Warriors looked like a 73-win team in Game 2. What will those willing to skip watching Game of Thrones in real time get to see on Sunday? Here are three questions to consider.
1) Will Oklahoma City get back to chasing the Warriors off the three point line? In Game 1, the Thunder did an excellent job of switching the Warriors pick-and-roll, communicating, and taking away most of the clean looks Golden State likes to get from three (the Warriors had to drive, where Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka did a good job protecting the paint). That communication and focus were gone in the second half of Game 2 — the Thunder struggled to be consistent on defense all season, now they have done it in these playoffs. You could see it when Curry was making his 15-point run — the Thunder were missing switches and not rotating fast onto guys — but it wasn’t just him getting clean looks. I expect we will see the more focused Thunder defense at home in Game 3 — and it needs to be, I can guarantee you if left open the Warriors will knock down their shots.
Specifically in Game 3, Ibaka must be better. The Warriors took advantage of his slow-footedness on the perimeter and half-step-too-slow rotations inside, and with that he started to wear down and look tired. The Warriors scored over and around him all game. That can’t happen again for OKC if they are going to win Game 2 (or, Billy Donovan needs to sit Ibaka more and play Kevin Durant at the four).
2) Which team controls the glass? Oklahoma City is one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, and because they are playing big you’d expect them to dominate the glass in this series. However, in Game 2 Golden State won the rebounding battle 45-36 (I’m generally not a fan of the total rebound stat, but in this case it proves a point). Golden State had 15 offensive rebounds and 15 second chance points. If the Warriors do that again, they will win again — this is an area the Thunder should and need to win.
3) What will Andre Roberson do? Roberson is getting the Tony Allen treatment — the Warriors are covering him with a center (Andrew Bogot or Draymond Green) who basically ignores Roberson in favor of protecting the paint. It was a problem (particularly in the second half) for Kevin Durant because his defender could be ultra aggressive out on the perimeter knowing here was help right behind him. Roberson did not make the Warriors pay for leaving him wide open — they will let him take threes all game long, and Roberson does not finish that well inside. The Thunder need to make an adjustment here (have Russell Westbrook come over and get the ball from Roberson on a handoff?) because the Warriors are not going to change this strategy until they pay a price.
The past two playoffs runs, the Warriors often had slower starts — think being down 2-1 to Cleveland in the Finals last season as the prime example — before they “figure a team out” and just dominate the series. The Warriors are so versatile they can try a wide range of strategies to see what works, but once they do they are relentless. The Roberson problem for the Thunder leads to the bigger question, have the Warriors figured the Thunder out? We shall see on Sunday evening.