I hate games like this. Where I’ve accepted a loss if it happens because I know the Thunder played really well. They fought. They clawed. They defended. Where I’ve come to terms with the result because no matter what, Oklahoma City played a great game against the league’s best team on the road, and on the second night of a back-to-back on top of it.
But then all that goodwill just gets ruined by yet another horrendous final possession by the Thunder. Down three with 13 seconds left, OKC was in the position it had to go for a 3 to tie. The play was pretty obvious. Inbound to Westbrook, swing to Green and then set a pinched screen to let Durant wiggle out for a look. Except only the first two parts worked. Jeff Green fired a contested 3 with five seconds left, which naturally airballed and OKC lost 109-105. Now Green should’ve held on for just a split second longer before shooting, yes, but good grief, why can’t one of these plays ever get executed?
If the Thunder gets a good look there — and that’s a big if — and it rims out, I’ve got zero problem with losing this game. This was against the Spurs who are now 47-10, 26-2 at home and have won 19 straight at the AT&T Center. They were rested, OKC wasn’t. The effort and intensity the Thunder played with in the second half was nothing short of admirable. So if a decent 3 goes begging, I snap my fingers, kick the dirt and move on.
Looking at the numbers, the Thunder did just about everything right. They killed the glass (54-37 edge), had 13 offensive rebounds to the Spurs four, held San Antonio to under 45 percent from the field, didn’t turn the ball over (10), made free throws (24-27) and played their butts off. Where OKC lost this game was in one specific area. The same area that took the Thunder down the last San Antonio game, hurt OKC again. The Spurs went 13-21 from 3, hitting 8 of 11 in the first half. Without that, the Thunder wins this game, no doubt. The lesson here is, the Spurs can shoot. Don’t leave them open.
Where I really think the Thunder lost this game though was a stretch with about four minutes left. OKC finally got over the hump taking a 98-96 lead behind James Harden’s spark from 3. And the Thunder did what they had to do: They got three straight stops. The opportunity was there to bridge out to at least a four-point lead with about three minutes left. But OKC never capitalized. If the Thunder gets points somewhere in there, they might have a nice buffer to keep the Spurs away. But remember, the Spurs are good and you can’t ever let them hang around.
- Harden was just super. He kind of looks like he has a different edge to him right now. He’s shooting with a ton of confidence, but isn’t sacrificing his dribble-drive game for it. He had 16 on 5-9 shooting and again, those back-to-back 3s are why OKC had a shot in the first place.
- For the first time in a while, we saw a vintage defensive game from Thabo Sefolosha. He really cranked up his effort in the second half, defending Manu Ginobili and holding him to a 2-13 game from the field. Thabo played physical (had seven rebounds) and was active in help defense. Of course he sucked offensively, but it’s forgivable when he plays defense like that.
- A key empty possession for OKC came with 48 seconds left. OKC really wanted Durant to get a look but he sort of forced one awkwardly on the baseline that came up short. You can live with it because KD makes tough shots, but it was early in the clock with the Thunder trailing by one.
- Serge Ibaka was terrific off the bench. He finished 10 points, 15 rebounds and a block and really played big inside against the Spurs. A great game from Serge.
- The Thunder started hot, scoring 37 in the first quarter. But things caught up to them in the second with San Antonio outscoring them 33-16.
- Russell Westbrook had 13 of his 25 in the first quarter and looked unstoppable. But it was almost like his hot start made him play a bit too aggressively later. He forced the issue a bit offensively, but that’s what you live with in Westbrook. When he’s got it going, he’s impossible to stop. But when he’s goes over the edge a bit, he can monopolize the offense.
- Daequan Cook did exactly what he’s been called to do. He stepped off the bench and hit two big 3-pointers in 14 minutes.
- A weird moment in the second quarter. Nick Collison had a normal foul on Tony Parker but Antonio McDyess took exception to it, coming up to Collison. As a result, the two teams came together and scuffled. Somehow after the dust settled, Tim Duncan and KD were hit with technicals and Collison a flagrant. It was really terrible. Scott Brooks and Gregg Popovich were at halfcourt together laughing about it.
- How about that dunk KD had in the first quarter? Good grief, he’s SO long.
I don’t know what to tell you. You don’t want to hear it because we all operate on emotion and we all want to see the team win. But this is just a tough loss. I can sit here and tell you how good the Spurs are and how well the Thunder played them, but you probably don’t care. The Thunder lost so with a day to go before the deadline, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.
The last play really leaves things sour, but other than that, OKC fought the league’s best team well and put itself in a position to win. That might not make you feel better because I agree, the Thunder let what would’ve been a great win slip away, but this team just isn’t there yet.
The bummer is that because of this loss, OKC could flirt with a three-game losing streak. At Orlando and then a home game against the Lakers Sunday put the Thunder in a tough spot. A win against the Spurs would’ve made everything feel a lot better. But hey, remember almost every good player just left the Northwest Division!
Next up: At the Magic Friday.