Manu Ginobili is worried.
No, really. The ridiculously easy 124-92 Spurs win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series furrowed Ginobili’s brow as he pondered the next game of the best-of-seven series, Game 2 scheduled for Monday night at the AT&T Center, 8:30 p.m. The game will be telecast on TNT.
Victories in the second round of the NBA playoffs aren’t supposed to be as trouble-free as the Spurs utter domination of Game 1, when they made 60.7% of their shots and led by as many as 43 points in the second half.
Ginobili understands that danger lurks.
“The tendency is to be satisfied,” said the 38-year-old veteran of 14 Spurs seasons. “So you get to worry about the next one because it’s a natural tendency. Hopefully, we don’t fall for that. We understand it’s an exception. It doesn’t happen that often, having a shooting night like that (and) their having as bad night as they did. So my feeling now is just being worried because we know it is not being the same and we start the game a little relaxed.”
Ginobili issued the same call for caution after the Spurs won Game 1 of their first-round series against the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies by the same 32-point margin. Game 2 of that series produced a 26-point margin of victory, part of a 4-0 series sweep.
This time he really means it. Memphis did not have a single player as dangerous as either Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, the Thunder All-Stars who were grim-faced on Saturday as they discussed the embarrassing nature of their team’s loss in Game 1.
Ginobili knows they will come to Monday’s game determined to atone.
“We know they are going to be more aggressive and they are going to attack us more,” he said. “Of course, KD (Durant) and Russell didn’t like what happened so they are going to push it and we are going to have to be ready.”
Indeed, Durant, a four-time NBA scoring champ and the 2014 Most Valuable Player, promised more aggression at both ends of the court.
“Point blank, we have to,” he said. “We have to swing first.”
The Spurs have the oldest roster in the NBA and more playoff experience than any of the eight teams that remain in the post-season tournament. Shouldn’t they be attuned to the ebbs and flows of playoff basketball? Haven’t they seen dramatic turnarounds from one playoff game to the next? Don’t the nine holdovers from last seasons’ roster recall that their 27-point Game 3 win over the Clippers in Game 3 of last year’s first round of the playoffs was followed by a nine-point loss in Game 4?
“Yes,” Ginobili said. “We all talk about it. We know. But the head is sometimes very hard to control. If it was that easy then you wouldn’t see it that often. And in every sport and athlete it happens many times. Hopefully, we don’t fall for it and we understand and we convince each other that the risks of winning like this (exist).
“We’ve talked about it many times and it still happens.”
Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan is certain to make some adjustments to his defensive game plan after yielding so many open looks to the Spurs in Game 1 but his players understand their most important adjustment will be between their ears.
“It’s not Xs and Os,” said backup big man Nick Collison, who is in his 13th NBA season. “We’ve got to come back and be ready for what we are going to face and match that with focused aggression, physicality, all those things.
“If you are not on their level with that, they are going to make you look bad.”
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City’s 7-foot center from New Zealand, put it more bluntly.
“They just played harder than us, mate, that’s all it came down to,” Adams said. “They had a higher intensity level.”
Danny Green, the Spurs guard whose 5-for-6, 3-point shooting was an important factor in Saturday’s blowout win, expects offensive and defensive adjustments and more intensity from the Thunder.
“You have to come out and think they’re going to do something different,” Green said. “They’re going to get into you. They’re not going to let you get those open looks. You’ve got to be ready for it, very focused.”
And if they don’t?
Then they are apt to have something tangible to worry about: A series tied at one game apiece.
Spurs Forward Manu Ginobili speaks to the toughness of their next opponent, Oklahoma City Thunder during practice on April 27, 2016. Photo by Scott Ball.