Thunder looking to shut the saloon door in Game 6

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James HardenOne more win. One more victory. On more triumph over the mighty San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are, as Keanu Reeves would say, “headed to the ‘ship”.

The streaking Thunder have a new-found confidence that they can indeed beat the savvy, battle-tested-over-a-decade Spurs by spacing the floor and sticking defensive stalwart Thabo Sefolosha on the uber talented Tony Parker. According to the playoff statistics on, Parker shoots a paltry 27 percent from the field when the Swissman covers him, and 49 percent when he doesn’t. Clearly coach Scott Brooks is on to something defensively.

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When Parker cannot effectively initiate the offense like in Games 4 and 5, the Spurs enter an offensive tailspin due to their lack of ball-handling play-callers to fill in at the other guard spot and alleviate the pressure on Parker. Ginobli and Duncan can’t get the ball in their preferred spots as the always fluid Spurs offense coagulates quickly. Clearly, Sefolosha’s slowing of the fleet-footed Frenchman will be another important factor for the Thunder, win or lose.

Parker’s backcourt foil,Russell Westbrook, operated like a true point guard to highlight another crucial victory for Oklahoma City in Game 5. When Westbrook shares the ball on offense, he makes everyone more effective. The speedy dribble drives and hesitation moves freed-up shots for gunners like Daquan Cook, Sefolosha, and of course, James Harden. The mercurial guard keyed the Thunder’s success by dishing out twelve assists, continuing his aggressive shot selection, and forcing the Spurs to pick their poison: let him shoot, let him pass, or let him drive.

The basketball community knows that Durant is going to put 30 every night, pull down 8-10 boards, and dish out 5-7 dimes; it’s the playoffs and superstars, at least ones not named LeBron, always deliver in the postseason. If Westbrook can participate in the offense, instead of breaking it, and if Thabo can continue defensive his mastery of Parker, the Thunder should take Game 6 at home.

Eric Eulau is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at

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