* The Thunder are playing better defense with better schemes and better personnel. But Danny Green missed multiple, wide-open threes last night. If the Spurs wings don’t cash in when the offense leads them to the open corner trey, everything falls apart. Before a meaningless three went in at the buzzer, Green was 0 for 5 from downtown in last night’s game. If he goes 2 for 5, just under his season percentage, maybe things play out differently. Combined with Serge Ibaka’s historical outlier performance (11 for 11 FG’s, many of them jump shots) this suggests that San Antonio might fare better in Games 5 through 6 or 7.
* Sort of like in Game 2 when the Thunder *only* lost by 9 against a near-perfect Spurs performance, in Game 4, the Spurs did a lot of things well to stay within 9 points before the aforementioned Danny Green jumper that beat the horn. In particular, Kawhi Leonard was awesome. He isn’t just hitting threes from the corner, he’s now burying them from the wing, too. Leonard shot 7 for 8 from the floor (3-4 from 3) and pulled down 9 rebounds. Also, after the Thunder adjustments limited Parker’s effectiveness in the pick and roll (a monumental achievement, in and of itself) Pop moved Tony off the ball and did some nice things with curl screens. Tony Parker is somewhat similar to Deron Williams in the way he can be effective while playing off of the ball. A great many of the good point guards in today’s NBA (Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo in particular) need to have the ball in order to be great. That’s fine and dandy if they’re playing well and their teammates can keep a rhythm without touching the rock very much. But some wing players like to dribble too, and Parker allows them to do that.
* In the first half of Game 4, I thought the refs were generous to OKC in rebounding situations. There were a handful of times when a Spurs missed field goal led to a contested rebound. Sometimes, a Thunder player (probably Perkins, maybe Ibaka) definitely made contact with his opponent, essentially popping the ball over to a different Thunder, changing possession. I wonder if a call or two is made if the game is in San Antonio. The Thunder outrebounded the Spurs 41-31 in last night’s game.
* James Harden has had an up-and-down series. He struggled in Game 1, dominated in Game 2, and played “okay” in Game 3. Last night, the Spurs largely kept James out of the paint and it didn’t seem to me that he had a very good game. But in looking at the box score, he did chip in 7 assists and was a game-best (+12) in 32 minutes of action. Then again, Danny Green was a Spurs-best (+7) and he struggled mightily so maybe this just comes down to +/- noisiness in small sample size. Still, Harden remains a crucial player for Oklahoma.
* Perhaps Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant are the best shooting guards in the game, today. But I think you could make a good case that, on a team with a great point guard (like San Antonio and Oklahoma City) you’d rather have Manu Ginobili or James Harden playing off the ball. They combine 80 percent of Wade/Bryant’s slashing ability with a catch-and-shoot game that complements a playmaker. Both are fun to watch.