The Oklahoma City Thunder were always going to struggle in the absence of Serge Ibaka.
San Antonio knew they could attack the lane without the fearsome shot-blocker defending the rim as Oklahoma were forced to use either less defensively sound big men or play small.
The Spurs scored 66 points in the paint while also shooting 68 percent from the field, the highest playoff-game percentage the Thunder have yielded since moving to Oklahoma City from Seattle in 2008.
Tim Duncan took advantage of the Thunder’s lack of elite defensive big men to score 27 points on 11-17 from the field.
Tony Parker shook off a hamstring strain to score 14 points and dish out 12 assists as he enjoyed scything open the Thunder’s weak defense.
With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both keeping up their end of the bargain scoring 28 and 25 points respectively, the onus to step up and replace Serge Ibaka’s contributions fell on the remaining three Thunder starters: Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha.
The trio combined for just five points – all scored by Perkins – to go with 13 boards and a handful of assists.
With the Spurs enjoying homecourt advantage and already holding momentum thanks to the deflating impact of Ibaka’s calf injury, San Antonio jumped out to an early lead as Duncan scored 12 of his 27 points in the first quarter, missing just one of his seven shots in the period.
With the supporting cast so limited, it came as no surprise to see Westbrook and Durant combine to score 21 of Oklahoma City’s 23 third-quarter points.
Ahead of Game 2, Oklahoma City will need to figure a way to improve their interior defense without compromising their perimeter shell, a necessity given the long-range weapons San Antonio possesses.
San Antonio Spurs:
Tim Duncan: 27 points, 11-17 FGS, 7 rebounds
Manu Ginobilli: 18 points, 7-12 FGS
Tony Parker: 14 points, 6-12 FGS ,12 assists
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Kevin Durant: 28 points, 10-19 FGS, 9 rebounds, 5 assists
Russell Westbrook: 25 points, 9-21 FGS, 7 assists
Derek Fisher: 16 points, 4-6 FGS, 4-4 FTS
Game 2 @SAS: Wednesday, May 21st. Tip: 9pm ET