What are the odds of the Thunder beating one of the best teams in basketball, when they only shot 36% from the field, were out-rebounded, were down by 17 points at one point, and turned the ball over 6 times in the first quarter. Would you say a win was likely?
That’s what happened and if you didn’t see it you missed a very good and entertaining game. The Thunder came out against the Spurs and were flat offensively (even by tonight’s standards). Nobody not named Durant could hit a bucket. Meanwhile the Spurs were their usual efficient self mostly getting every shot to drop. They shot 13/23 in the opening quarter (56%), had 10 rebounds and 9 assists and only one turn. The Thunder were 6/18 (33%) with 8 boards and 6 turns. They were taking everything from outside and not getting into the paint.
In the second quarter the Thunder’s shooting didn’t improve much, but the defense began to take hold. They forced the Spurs into 9 turns in the quarter, and held them to 33% shooting. The Thunder began to get into the paint in the second and it paid off-getting to the line 13 times to cut the lead down to 4 by halftime. We also hang onto the ball better, only committing 3 turns. I began to think that maybe we might have a chance, but we still needed to shoot more efficiently.
In the third it was more of the same: defensive intensity by both teams, which produced poor shooting by both teams. The difference between the two teams seemed to be that we were getting to the line and they weren’t, and we crashed the boards hard in the third snagging 12 to the Spurs 9. The Spurs lead was down to two at 63-61 at the end of three.
Early in the fourth we tied it up at 63 on a deep two by Durant. Four minutes later we took our first lead 70-67 on a Chucky Atkins three on a feed from Thabo. If the defensive intensity was ratcheted up before, it really went to a new level in the fourth, with the Thunder getting huge defensive stops one after the other. On the opening play of the fourth, Thabo bodied up on Roger Mason Jr. and forced him out of bounds on a drive. Then Thabo made a steal in the open court. Then Weaver stripped Duncan from behind when he was posting up Collison, exactly like Thabo had done in the third quarter (it lead to the three by Atkins). Later on a switch Green was guarding Parker and stayed in front of him long enough to cause him to double dribble.
About this time Duncan was non stop whining to the refs about the calls he wasn’t getting. The refs had already given him a technical. Finally the refs gave Duncan a “make up call” when he charged into Collison-clearly an offensive foul-but called it a blocking foul. However, Karma is good: Duncan missed both free throws.
Late in the fourth with just a few seconds left, Westbrook rushed a jumper from the top of the key and the Spurs got the rebound, down two with 18 seconds left. After the timeout, Parker penetrated and stepped out for a jumper on a screen but Thabo got a hand up and bothered him into missing. Roger Mason got the rebound and kicked it back out to Parker for another crack at it. He was just outside of the three point line and Thabo was closing out. He took one little step to the left and fired away and again Thabo had his hand right there either on the ball or right near it.
Great win for the Thunder and hopefully a big lesson on how to defend and close out a win with a lead.
- The Thunder shooting by quarters: 33%, 37%, 36%, 36%. It’s incredibly consistent, even though it’s also incredibly underwhelming.
- Spurs shooting by quarters: 56.5%, 33%, 42%, 29.4%.
- Our 29 field goals made was tied for the second lowest of the season-the one time we made fewer, our coach got fired in the loss to the Hornets.
- Krstic and Collison did a masterful job clogging the middle tonight, along with the help defense around the rim. Duncan was swarmed most of the night and only bagged 14 points on 6/13 shooting, and only got to the line for 5 freebies. He did get 13 rebounds. Krstic an Collison also did a good job on Gooden when he came in the paint. Collison was really battling him for position.
- The Thunder got to the line 19 times combined in the second and third quarters, and not at all in the fourth.
- I enjoyed watching Duncan look slow and flat footed when Durant drove right at him one on one and finished with a reverse dunk.
- Twice in the third quarter the Thunder defense was screwed up for some reason. Parker had the ball and was being guarded by Westbrook, he got a screen from Bonner (who actually just slipped it) and rolled out to the three point line. Westbrook and Green must have been confused about whether to switch or not, but they both trailed Parker as he drove into the lane whereby he passed behind him to Bonner, wide open for a three.
- Bonner got the exact same shot on the next play when the defense again failed. Luckily he missed. Brooks called a timeout shortly thereafter and put Thabo on Parker for the rest of the night and had Westbrook guard Mason.
- The defense still switched out a lot on all of those screens, and in the third it didn’t matter who was on Parker, he was hitting everything.
- Green was really horrible not good shooting the ball tonight. He was 4/15 including 0/3 on threes. Grant Long kept telling the TV audience that he needed to keep shooting and that it was a “high percentage shot” for Green. Uhhhm, not to diminish your great nice basketball career, but Green is only shooting .250 for the month of March. Not exactly “high percentage”. How about encouraging him to drive the lane?
- Popovich did a little defense for offense substitution when they were down by four with just a minute or so left. They put in Bowen and took out Mason after the timeout. As soon as he could, he got Mason back in for offense. The funny thing is, Bowen is shooting a better percentage than Mason from the field and from three, and he led the league in 2002.
- Thabo again recorded at three steals. He is a steal machine.
- Our offensive efficiency was a underwhelming 88 points per 100; theirs was 85. Definitely a defensive battle. We lost the shooting battle, but won the other three factors.