Parker Abuses Westbrook: Game 2 NBA Western Conference Finals

May 30, 2012

Tony Parker drives to the hoop against Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant in Game 2 of 2012 Western Conference finals(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

With a military background, it’s clear that San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich relishes the mental game within the physical. At this level of the playoffs, it’s the toughest teams mentally that come out on top, and he has identified a weakness in the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s been well documented here why we think Russell Westbrook is not a championship point guard, and it’s been fascinating to watch Popovich try and prove our point.

[See our Game 1 Manu vs Harden Breakdown]

We’ve seen Westbrook stew over bad plays, remain angry when teammates score because he didn’t get a foul call on the play, and take himself out of the game with his mental approach. The difference in Game 2 was that the game plan appeared engineered to cause this meltdown.

Tony Parker ran Westbrook through so many screens and attacked him so incessantly, you could see in his body language and in his decisions how it made him play worse. This culminated in a sequence in the third quarter where Russ simply grabbed Parker because he couldn’t stop him, then threw Boris Diaw to the ground when Diaw tried to set a screen on him. It was that possession where the Spurs took their biggest lead of the game at 22 points, and never were seriously threatened.

As the breakdown shows, Tony Parker decimated the Thunder by scoring and getting into the paint. He finished the game with 34 points on a remarkable 16-21 fg’s. Parker also added 8 assists and committed only 2 turnovers.

Westbrook has tried to combat that with his own offense, but his shooting percentage and assist production hasn’t been enough. His 10-24 fg’s (42%) is normally not that poor. But in a game with incredible offensive efficiency-Spurs shot 55% while Harden & Durant shot 67% on 20-30 fg’s- Westbrook’s inefficiency is somewhat glaring.

Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook Stats in 2012 Western Conference Finals Image

To Westbrook’s credit, he bounced back in the fourth quarter with 11 points, 2 assists, and 4 rebounds, but it was all too little, too late. One play in particular stands out as a reason why he hasn’t yet achieved championship point guard status: down 8 points with 57 seconds left, he dribbled up the court with Manu Ginbobili waiting for him at the three point line. He simply pulls up 3 feet behind the line and tosses up a brick. You miss that shot, the game is over – and the decision to ignore three better shooters is very telling. Harden was on top by himself, Kevin Durant and Derek Fisher on the weak side spacing the floor with only Kawhi Leonard in position to defend them both. This is something he will need to learn, to consistently make the right decision that most benefits the team, not himself. While he has wondrous ability to do incredible things with the basketball, as the primary ball handler going against elite defenses, he will hold the Thunder back from winning a championship until he changes his approach.

Written by Coach Nick and Arun

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Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown and a former high school varsity basketball coach. Follow Coach Nick on Twitter, @bballbreakdown.

Comments (3)

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  1. SKL says:

    Amazing analysis as always. You’re a maestro, Coach Nick!

  2. Sorry, Coach Nick, I saw it differently. Perkins & Mohammed were repeatedly getting themselves out of position to protect the paint, forcing RW to run himself ragged through picks trying to stop the Spurs’ penetrations. Their slow foot speed caused KD & Ibaka to get out of position, also, which compounded the problem. The Thunder’s 3 usual scorers still managed 88 points on 56% shooting, with RW contributing 27 points, 7 boards, & 8 assists with no turnovers, while using only 24 net possessions (1.1 ppp). The rest of the team, in their 124 minutes, shot a miserable 22% (7 out of 34), adding a meager 23 points out of 30 net possessions, with just 2 assists, & only 10 drb’s. The Spurs shot a whopping 55% as a team, were +60 on drb’s & assists, & scored 1.24 points per net possession, which is hard for anybody to win against. This loss was not RW’s fault, you cannot blame him for the Thunder giving up 120 points! I blame it on Brooks for not keeping Sefolosha on Ginobili all of the time (even if that means not starting Thabo), & for his continuing to play Perkins instead of Collison (since the officials will not let Kendrick bang in this series, nor is it even necessary). I also blame it on Brooks’ lack of having the defense rotate on those picks, instead of making RW try to continuously play one on one with Parker. That is hard for RW (or anyone else) to do whenever the Spurs are setting pick after pick, especially whenever none of OKC’s bigs are collapsing the lane or shutting down anybody playing for SA that attacks the paint, except for Tim Duncan. RW perceives the game as a wide open shoot out, & it is, under these conditions! Brooks’ job is to correct that perception by fixing OKC’s defense. Both, DFish & Serge, having such a miserable shooting night did not help, either. Ibaka was missing easy short range baskets all night, as was Perkins. They combined for 4 of 16 from 10′ to point blank range, many on squeaky clean looks. Collison usually makes those open 8 footers, but he didn’t get a chance to find any rhythm since Brooks only gave him 9 minutes. SA has too much speed for Perkins or Mohammed, so Brooks must adjust right away by utilizing Collison in their stead, before the Thunder’s season is dead.

    • bballbreakdown says:

      I agree with you on all of these assessments. Since that was the way Brooks was going to play it, Pop had little choice but to exploit it. I think we pointed out some instances of Perk being brutal… Thanks!

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