Spurs look to recover against Thunder’s youth and noise
SAN ANTONIO, June 2 — With their 20-game winning streak over and facing a charged-up Oklahoma City Thunder team looking to tie the Western Conference finals, the San Antonio Spurs know they must recover quickly from Thursday's 102-82 defeat.
The Spurs lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 heading into Saturday's game but the air of invincibility that surrounded the top-seeded team after 10 straight playoff wins has vanished.
A youthful Thunder team, backed by one of the loudest home arenas in the National Basketball Association, produced an intelligent display on defence that proved too much for the veteran Spurs to handle.
For Argentine guard Manu Ginobli, who had been in rich form prior to the Game Three rout where he was held to eight points, it was not just the defensive work of Swiss Thabo Sefolosha and Spaniard Serge Ibaka that proved the Spurs' downfall.
"The building kind of helped them too, besides the fact that they are 22 years old and they can run forever," Ginobli told reporters on Friday. "We are not that type of athletes. But they brought it. They really knew that this was a huge game. The fans fuelled them, and they got us on our heels.
"So now we know how it's going to be, and we've got to start the game on a sharper mode, make better decisions and try to contain them a little bit better."
It has been 50 days since the Spurs have had to contemplate a loss, which came in the regular season, but Ginobli says that should make getting back in the right mind for Saturday's Game Four easier.
"Usually it's easier to refocus after a loss than a win. Players usually have a tendency after winning a few games to relax a little or feel complacent. So hopefully we'll react," said Ginobli.
"We'll see now how we do against losses. But even if we react well, it's a tough place to win, and they're a great team."
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks, widely credited with masterminding the tactical adjustments behind the emphatic win, is under no illusions about the difficulty of repeating in Game Four before the series shifts back to San Antonio.
"We know that they're going to come out and play with great energy and effort. They're a great team. They won 20 (straight) games. They're not going to push the panic button after one loss," said Brooks.
"They're going to come out and play like they normally play, and we expect them to. We have to come out and play even better - that's what our goal is. That's our plan. That's our focus."
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was dismissive of any role the vocal crowd may have played, saying "it was a basketball team that beat us" and he believes his team has the character to handle the loss.
"The good teams always come back after a loss. You don't know if you're going to win or lose your next game, but you come back and you play," he said. "Everybody wins and loses, it's not that dramatic a thing." — Reuters