After Oklahoma City pummeled the Knicks Wednesday night, I wrote about how most of the time I like a good close game with big moments and clutch plays. Let me clarifiy: I’m pretty sure I only like close games like that when Oklahoma City wins.
But make no mistake, the Thunder’s 109-108 overtime loss to the Spurs was an excellent game. Definitely the best of the season thus far. If Russell Westbrook’s jumper as time expired didn’t hit back-iron and had fallen and the Thunder had won, this one would have been tucked away in a special place for me. Like as in, best professional game I’d ever attended. But it didn’t. So I’m not too keen on storing this one in the memory banks.
OKC dug a 19-point hole early that it couldn’t get all the way out of until there were two minutes left in the third. The Spurs jumped out early in the fourth, but a couple big time stops and great execution on the offensive end forced the game into an extra frame. And then it wrapped up the way any great game should – star players made plays, the officials made questionable calls that one side loved and the other side hated and it all came down to one final possession. There were highs and lows, but in the end, pretty much all lows.
I’m kind of sort of past all the moral victory stuff, but honestly, after the way the first 16 minutes of this one went, I kind of have to give it up to the Thunder for even being in a position to win. Of course, that’s no excuse to dig yourself a big hole and lose, but still. Still.
And yep, San Antonio did this without Tim Duncan. But DeJuan Blair did a decent job of filling in for Timmy and by “decent job” I mean he turned into freaking Wilt Chamberlain. Blair (who as everyone will remind me for the rest of my life, was the 37th pick overall last June), had 28 points, 21 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. He was absolutely a bull inside and OKC had no match whatsoever. The only thing that stopped Blair was his sixth foul, which James Harden drew on him with an and-1 in overtime.
But we have to talk for a minute about the Spurs’ last possession. I’m no ref whiner and I hate the people that constantly beg for calls, but this has to be covered because, well, it decided the game. Through a Thunder fan’s eyes, it looked like a travel by Manu. He went airborne with no where to go, passed the ball and then recovered it himself. So, it should have been a travel. The replays of it kind of stink and maybe the ball grazed Antonio McDyess’s jersey. But even if it did, there’s no way an official saw that. No way. Again, bear in mind I’m a shameless homer, but that’s a travel by Ginobili and OKC should have had the ball. I’m convinced. Even Spurs color man Sean Elliot even said San Antonio got away with one there, and that’s after he nearly threw a fit over some earlier calls going against his team (or so I’m told). So… if there’s a whistle there, maybe things would have been different.
But give credit to Manu. That was one heckuva play to save the day. The whistle didn’t blow and in the end, it doesn’t matter. Of course I thought the travel should have been called, but it wasn’t and the Thunder had a chance regardless. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m rather irked it wasn’t called. And by “irked” I mean, I may or may not have pushed the guy standing next to me out of Loud City after it in instant anger.
And while I’m complaining a bit, how much is Kevin Durant held throughout a game? I mean, seriously. Especially on the last possession, I think Richard Jefferson actually crawled inside KD’s jersey. That’s a tough call to make, but the Thunder couldn’t get the ball into Durant’s hands because of it. He was being bear-hugged and I think George Hill possibly tied his feet together as well. Again, you’ll never see that call, so if the official is going to swallow his whistle in that respect, Durant needs to just get pissed and give a big ‘ol push-off to break free. And if he gets tagged for it, that’s when I come running out of the stands wielding a t-shirt cannon pointed at you-know-who.
- OKC is now 0-3 in overtime. You know what that means? TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS IN THE FIRST 48 FROM NOW ON GUYS.
- KD took a season-high 31 shots tonight. His jumper wouldn’t fall at all in regulation, but he got it done by attacking the rim. It was some of the best penetration he’s had this year (I know, I know… that’s what she said). But in overtime, he took over and hit jumper after jumper. He was plain stinking awesome. He finished with 35 points on 14-31 shooting (45 percent is pretty good for an off night), five rebounds and three assists. He did pick up seven turnovers though.
- More on KD: He was 3-9 from 16-23 feet, 3-10 from 10-15 feet, but 6-7 at the rim. Like I said, he was excellent in that regard tonight.
- I guess KD was the stud of the evening for OKC, but Russell Westbrook was nearly equally fantastic. He was the reason the Thunder even had a chance period. Twenty-five points (9-24), 13 assists, six rebounds and only three turnovers. He ran the offense perfectly down the stretch and in OT and of course hit the HUGE jumper to force the extra five. He needed one more to fall though. Bummer.
- One thing though about Westbrook: Tony Parker abused him early. Parker got anywhere he wanted and his step-back jumper was killer. Russ just didn’t have the length to really contest it. Parker had 22 points at the half and Thabo switch over to Mr. Longoria to start the second half. And if you need reason to believe Thabo is an elite defender, see here: After halftime Parker didn’t score until there was under three minutes left in the fourth and had just six points after halftime. Yep, Thabo’s good.
- For I think the first time this year, Nenad Krstic didn’t begin the second half in a game he started. Nick Collison instead got the call and it was a great decision by Scott Brooks. I like Krstic, I really do, but he had no value tonight. He played just nine minutes, didn’t score and didn’t grab a rebound. Collison had eight rebounds and eight points and did a decent job putting tourniquet on the gaping wound DeJuan Blair had opened up in the first quarter.
- Jeff Green was really solid. He had 16 points (7-9) and 10 boards, but if he could have grabbed one more, OKC probably wins. He was stout defensively down the stretch as he got caught in a couple switches on Manu and Parker, but he held his own. I thought he had a great game.
- I heard some M-V-P chants for KD while he was at the line tonight. It bugs the heck out of me when it happens at Staples for Kobe, but I’ll admit, I joined in tonight with a big grin on my face.
- James Harden: 12 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes. But he took just five shots. He passed up a couple good looks from 3, which in hindsight, I really wish he had taken. But his defense was surprisingly good on Ginobili in the fourth and in overtime. That’s a big step for him.
- The play Scott Brooks drew up late in the fourth that freed Thabo for the dunk to tie the game was brilliant. KD was a total decoy and the Spurs bit, especially because Durant had just burned them on the same play right before. He ran off Thabo’s pick, two Spurs went with him and Thabo slipped to the rim. It was kind of like how a football team would run a bubble screen just to set up a little hitch-and-go on the next play. Perfect execution there.
- Another thing about Manu: He was 0-10 and scored just two points, but easily made the play of the game. Even if it was a travel.
- After giving up 35 points in the first quarter, OKC got back in it by holding the Spurs to 13 in the third. A big difference was just that San Antonio started missing the shots they were hitting earlier.
- The small linuep of Eric Maynor, Westbrook, Harden, Durant and Green is what got OKC back in this game in the second quarter. It really gave the Spurs fits.
- There are about a billion more thoughts from this game, but I’ll just leave it be and let the gallery discuss from here.
Don’t sign me up for a moral victory. This one stung. I walked out of the Ford Center with my head hung low, feeling like someone had just informed me a pet I owned was severely injured or something. And here’s where I ponder getting all sappy and talking about how it’s a blessing to even get to feel this kind of pain, because you know, we have a team now, but I’m going to fight the urge. Forget the sunshiny feelings. This one plain hurt. It looked bad from the beginning but these guys fought. They never quit. They had a rabid home crowd screaming for them and they felt like they were letting them down. So they scratched, clawed and worked their way back in a game against an elite team and had a chance to win.
Yes, it would have been a huge win. In the long run as this team pushes for the playoffs, we may look back on it and think what if. But if we learned anything tonight, it’s that these guys aren’t going to quit. And while there’s nothing good to take out of that, I do have to say I’m kind of proud of them, win or lose. It truly was a fantastic game and there were moments where we all thought, “Holy crap, these guys are going to do it.” Kevin Durant nearly went nova and took the thing over like only the brightest of stars do. But it just wasn’t meant to be. Which sucks.
Next up: At Dallas Friday night.