Two nights, two streaks ended. After all the fun and joy we had the past week and half, these last two days were a bit of a buzzkill.
This was the dreaded fourth in five nights game and it showed for Oklahoma City. Call it running out of gas, call it playing shorthanded, but the Thunder just didn’t have enough against the rested, veteran Spurs, dropping a second straight, 95-87.
First, let’s get the Durant streak stuff out of the way. Twenty-nine straight games of 25 points or more is just unreal. We all had visions of this thing lasting forever because KD just scores with ease. It’s almost effortless. Some guys labor for points. Durant puts up 31 on 12-17 shooting like it’s nothing.
I definitely never thought KD’s streak was distracting to himself or teammates. But it was DEFINITELY distracting to me. It’s all I thought about. I’d be staring at the box score constantly worrying about it. Cripes, just 17 with 6:50 left in the third. PICK IT UP KD! I always hoped he’d gets his 25th point in the third quarter because then I wouldn’t have to worry about that AND the actual game during the fourth. Just too much for this Thunder fan’s heart. I kind of feel like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive after he catches Dr. Richard Kimble. Harrison Ford says, “But it’s over now” and Jones replies, “You know I’m glad. I need the rest.” I wanted the streak to last forever and ever. But now I don’t have look at the box score ever 15 seconds. I need the rest.
And it’s funny, Durant had 21 points and 12 rebounds tonight, a pretty fantastic game for anyone not named Kevin Durant, yet we’re disappointed. The bad part about it is, 17 of those points came in the first half and zero in the fourth quarter. So if I’m doing my math correctly here, that’s just four in the second half, all in the third. And that’s what ultimately cost the Thunder. Russell Westbrook had 13 points in the fourth quarter but the team only had 20. Nobody could make a shot tonight (39.8 percent from the field). Just one of those nights.
Westbrook carried the Thunder offense for a stretch in the fourth, but wound up 6-21 from the floor. He did have seven assists and six rebounds, but I guess he felt the need to shoulder the load a bit. He got carried away in stretches, really forcing things. At times, he’s almost too dynamic and athletic for his own good. The offense was just stagnant with too much dribbling and too much standing around. The Thunder offense is at its best when people are moving, cutting, screening and passing. Westbrook can create shots at will but when he forces things too much, everything just goes to hell. Again, not saying he was necessarily bad because his 6-21 shooting includes a horrific 0-7 start and without him OKC might not be in this at all. It’s just that he fell a little in love with his own number late in the game. That’s all.
- If you love the NBA and don’t hate Manu Ginobili, you’re either a Spurs fan or you suck at life. In the pregame, I said, “In two games Manu Ginobili is 0-18 against the Thunder. So expect him to explode for 35 on 10-12 shooting.” Ginobili’s line: 26 points on 9-18 shooting. I continue to hate you and your annoying bald spot Manu.
- The Spurs went small to start the fourth and Scott Brooks responded with Maynor, Westbrook, Harden, Thabo and Durant. Thabo at the four and Durant at the five. Kind of a fun lineup to watch.
- Thabo was a little more aggressive on the offensive end than usual. He notched a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds and was 5-8 from the floor. And for the most part, he played some pretty fantastic defense.
- OKC killed itself again at the free throw line. The Thunder missed eight (16-24) and worst of all, KD only got there six times. If you want a reason the streak ended, look there first. He’s been getting to stripe 10-11 times during this run.
- Serge Ibaka sat this one out with a sore back and Nick Collison rested an injury too. So the Thunder was extremely shorthanded down low. But the team did an excellent job on the glass as a full unit. The starters grabbed 12, 13, 4, 8 and 6 rebounds with James Harden reeling in seven off the bench.
- Byron Mullens saw a little burn in the first half because of the injuries. Zeroes across the board in two minutes of play. In a word, he looked tentative.
- The Thunder clearly had a plan to push the pace a bit tonight. More transition, especially in the first half, than usual.
- Jeff Green had a quiet solid night. Nineteen points and four rebounds along with some excellent hustle.
- Does anyone have any theories as to why Nenad Krstic shoots the ball so much better in the third quarter? Does he urinate on his hands at halftime? Change shoes? Say some kind of magical prayer? He went 0-5 in the first half for zero points. The third quarter, he’s 3-4 with eight points. I don’t get it.
- I can tell you this, if I see the Cox commercial that goes, “Hey man, you’re a friend you know. Where you’ve been, or where you go. Floating doow-owwwn, a slow moving stream. You know where you are…” one more time, I will either drag my TV outside and back over it with my car or stick my arm down the garbage disposal. I haven’t decided yet.
- How good is Jeff Green at avoiding charges while being in mid-air? It’s just extremely impressive the way a guy 6’9 can control his body like that.
- If this year was an audition to decide between Elyssa Walker-Campbell and Tom Werme, Werme has my vote. He’s great on the sideline and he doesn’t ask incredibly awkward questions with his eyes being opened super-wide.
- DeJuan Blair is a nice rebounder, he really is. But man, he really gets away with subtle pushes. But that’s what great rebounders do, I guess.
- What’s the deal with the Thunder and giving up coast-to-coast layups at the end of the third quarter? I mean, WHAT’S THE DEAL?
- Here’s what makes absolutely no sense to me and we’ve seen it a lot lately: When an official under the basket makes an out of bounds call one way and then the other team freaks out and then the official looks to the other ref allllll the way out by halfcourt, says something probably along the lines of, “Did you see Tim Duncan’s face? He looked mad. Let’s change it.” And then they swap the call. I don’t get this.
Everyone kind of had a feeling this one might go this way. It’s not a bad loss by any means. Again, a tired Thunder squad against a rested Spurs team. OKC was coming off an emotional loss where its streak was snapped. San Antonio was returning home after a long road tilt. Honestly, I’m kind of impressed the Thunder hung so tough and kept the energy level so high throughout. Players were on the floor, taking charges and diving for lose balls. OKC was shorthanded without Ibaka and Collison, yet they hung tough on the glass, actually outrebounding the Spurs. This loss is certainly forgivable. Now a loss Friday at home to Minnesota on the other hand, well that’s kind of must-win.
Remember this is just one loss. It doesn’t count for more than that. And here’s some news: The Thunder will lose again this year. What, you expected them to win out?
Next up: The Wolves again Friday at the Ford Center. REMEMBER, DT NIGHT AT TAPWERKS BEFORE THE GAME. BE THERE.