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Spurs Beat Thunder, Grizzlies Changes, Draft Lottery Tonight

The Spurs got a win in the opener of the Western Conference Finals as their offense hummed through most of the game. Heat-Pacers game two is tonight following the draft lottery. Ping. Pong. Balls.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs won game one of the Western Conference Finals behind their usual efficient offense, as they shot 57% from the field and only turned the ball over nine times. They were able to get going early as the Thunder, without Serge Ibaka, were forced to play long stretches of small ball, often with Kevin Durant as the four. This allowed the Spurs to attack inside relentlessly, and they wound up outscoring the Thunder in the paint 66-32.

Tim Duncan was unstoppable in the first half, converting time and time again on the pick and roll, while Danny Green started hot, hitting his first three 3 point attempts. For the Thunder, Kevin Durant was scoring, but the Spurs were a juggernaut, and the Thunder were fortunate to be down only eight at half.

The Thunder had their best stretch of the game early in the third quarter, as their defense stiffened behind Nick Collison and Steven Adams, and Russell Westbrook briefly took over with a flurry of drives. They actually took a brief one point lead before the Spurs reasserted control behind a rejuvenated Manu Ginobili, who finished with 18 points, many of them spectacular.  The Spurs finished the quarter on a roll, building their lead back to seven, and they never looked back, stretching it out in the fourth quarter for their final 122-105 margin of victory.

Although it was only one game, you can see the problems OKC faces without Serge Ibaka. They have very few options for defending the Spurs inside, whether it be Duncan post ups or perimeter players driving to the rim. Meanwhile, while their offense was not bad, and they got double figure games from Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher in support of Westbrook and Durant, the other three starters combined for five points.

Game Two is Wednesday night.

Tonight's game:

Heat at Pacers
7:30 pm Central

The Heat will try to get even after the Pacers took game one at home. The Pacers were remarkably efficient on offense in game one, not the way they usually win. They were able to get open threes off penetration and ball movement, and get good looks in the paint off the pick and roll.  Still, they made more shots than can be generally expected, and the Heat will likely turn up the defensive pressure.

Meanwhile, the Heat will also need more offensively from players not named LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh was a non-factor in game one, and Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole combined to go 2-12 for six points. That won't work, especially when significant minutes are going to non-scorers Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem.

If the Pacers can get this second one at home, all of a sudden this series is in real doubt heading to Miami.

A busy couple of days in the league:

  • The NBA formally charged Donald Sterling with damaging the league, and set a hearing for June 3rd, after which the owners will vote on forcing him to sell the Clippers. 3/4 of the owners are required to vote to oust him to force a sale. Glen Taylor will preside over the hearing.
  • What is going on in Memphis? CEO Jason Levien and assistant GM Stu Lash were fired by owner Robert Para. Chris Wallace is back in charge. Chris Wallace!  Para is said to be unhappy with coach Dave Joerger, and rumor has it they are going to try to pry Tom Thibodeau from the Bulls.  If they do get rid of Joerger, he would be a serious option for the Wolves, as he and Flip Saunders have a long standing relationship.
  • Speaking of coaching, I'll have another coaching candidate article up later this morning.
  • Tonight is the draft lottery, prior to the Heat-Pacers game. The Wolves are unlikely to move off the 13th spot, but you never know.  If they drop back to 14, the Suns get the pick.
Today in History

1609: Shakespeare's sonnets first published in London
1861: Kentucky proclaims neutrality in Civil War
1861: North Carolina becomes 11th state to secede. 
1868: Ulysses S. Grant nominated by Republican convention in Chicago
1873: Levi Strauss patents blue jeans with rivets
1902: 3 year U.S. military occupation of Cuba ends
1927: Saudi Arabia becomes independent of Britain

Today's musical birthday is Joe Cocker, born in 1944.

Work those ping pong balls. Have a good Tuesday. Open up.