It’s hard to be surprised at Saturday’s outcome. Doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating though.
The excuses are there and they are good ones. Second night of a back-to-back (after some guys played 40+ minutes) and on the road against the best home team in the league. Still, knowing how good the Thunder can be and are, watching them run mindlessly around the perimeter searching for open San Antonio shooters was a bit upsetting.
The Thunder did two things really poor against the Spurs: offense and defense. Other than that, they were pretty good. I guess there’s a reason San Antonio is tough to beat in their own building — they don’t miss much. Especially when left wide the eff open. The great fear when playing the Spurs is that their whole pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick game gets cooking and it did in the first quarter erasing a hot Thunder start with a 13-2 run. After that, it was pretty much all over. Mainly because Tony Parker wasn’t about to let Oklahoma City really get back in the game.
Parker didn’t score all 107 of San Antonio’s points, but it sure felt that way. He finished with 42 on 16-29 shooting along with nine assists and was there to snuff out any momentum the Thunder built. He was like Jar Jar Binks. Every time the movie started looking good, Jar Jar Parker would show up and completely ruin everything.
Not to take anything away from how good Parker was, but this had to be Russell Westbrook’s weakest defensive effort of the season. Westbrook appeared to be frustrated with Serge Ibaka’s communication in the pick-and-roll, but Westbrook didn’t get through screens well and just got torched consistently by Parker’s step-back jumpers and runners in the paint. Westbrook’s defense has been really pretty good this year, but there’s no way around it — Parker smoked him.
It appeared that Scott Brooks was pulling a Gregg Popovich by conceding the game early when he started the fourth without a starter on the floor along with Lazar Hayward. I think Brooks was planning on just sort of waving the white flag, but the second unit put together a little 17-5 run and cut the Spurs lead down to nine with 8:26 left. But Brooks stuck with that second unit that was playing well while on the other side, Popovich had brought back Parker and Duncan. I think Brooks gaffed here by not immediately responding with Durant and Westbrook once the Thunder showed life. Yeah, the second unit was playing well, but honestly, how long can you expect a unit of Reggie Jackson, Harden, Daequan Cook, Hayward and Nick Collison to keep scoring? Brooks eventually brought back his horses with 6:50 left, but it was two minutes too late. The Thunder were down 13 and while they got it to nine once more, the comeback ship had already sailed.
I know some might feel like freaking a bit by saying things like, “I told you we’re not elite!” and “We have GOT to make a trade if we’re going to compete!” but let’s call this like it is: The Thunder were tired, flat and unfocused. They didn’t defend well and the Spurs didn’t miss much. No revealing warts, no signs of bigger issues. Sometimes you lose. Would you believe that no team has ever gone 82-0 (or 66-0)? An ugly, frustrating loss but that’s pretty much it. Really nothing more, and nothing less than that.
- You know what silently killed the Thunder outside of the bad defense and simplistic offense? Free throw shooting. Normally a weapon for OKC, the Thunder went 17-28 from the line. That’s 11 potential points left 15 feet away from the basket.
- By the way, the Thunder lost by 11.
- The Spurs were a +15 from the 3-point line. They actually only made one more basket than the Thunder, but the +15 from 3 and +4 from the free throw line added up to more points for them. MATH.
- Here’s why the Spurs are so stinking good at getting shooters open: The ball moves faster than a person, which is something the Spurs understand and take advantage of as good as anyone in the league. They love to collapse a defense, kick out and then swing the ball around. No matter how hard the Thunder try to contest and rotate, you just can’t outrun the ball.
- Westbrook broke an ugly streak of five straight games with five or more turnovers by only turning it over three times tonight. Yay Russ.
- KD had his fifth straight double-double, which is nice. He looked like he was in store for a big time night early on, but cooled off finishing with 11 rebounds and 22 on 9-19 shooting. Four assists and four blocks though.
- Just 13 turnovers for OKC. That’s good, right?
- Harden scored 19 on the road too. The positives are EVERYWHERE for this game!
- Serge Ibaka’s free throw shooting has really regressed. He hovered around 80 percent for most of last season and finished at 75 percent. After a 2-7 effort from the line against the Spurs, he’s down to 56 percent on this season.
- You can tell when Daequan Cook is feeling good about his shot because his release gets really quick. He was forced to force some 3s, but hit 4-10 from deep.
- Cook also took his first two free throws of the season.
- Not often do you see the Thunder lose when they have six guys score in double-figures. But 42 from Parker, 13 from Duncan and 15 unexpected points from Kawhi Leornard was too much.
- Cole Aldrich’s 3-point celebration is one of my favorite developments of this season. And we were treated to some Aldrich garbage time, which is always fun.
- Got no problem saying it tonight: Perk wasn’t good. Largely because he couldn’t stay on the floor. He picked up two fouls in about 90 seconds to start the game and only got 17 minutes total. Tim Duncan pretty much worked Perk over in the pick-and-pop game too as Perk was too slow to recover. There were possessions where Perk was almost moving while standing still in the paint as the ball whizzed around the perimeter.
- This upcoming stretch of games is a bit scary now that the Thunder started off with a loss to the Spurs. At Portland, at Golden State, at Sacramento, at Utah. Honestly, returning back 3-2 from this trip would be a massive win in my mind.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “You know the French are very passionate people. It was probably an empathetic response.”
Next up: At Portland Monday.