Open opposing shooters and turnovers. Not exactly a recipe for confidence in a late-season matchup for the Thunder against one of their primary obstacles in the path of another NBA Finals run.
OKC wasted an inspired start Monday night in San Antonio to get whipped 105-93, leaving a trail of ugly turnovers, wide-open Spurs 3-pointers and maddening two-way execution in its wake. The Thunder consequently have dropped both road games against San Antonio this year and stand a full two games back of the Spurs in the race for the top spot in the West playoff race.
The Thunder started out relatively hot and playing well, looking much like the team that famously won four straight games against the juggernaut Spurs to win the Western Conference. Oklahoma City crashed the boards, moved the ball and overwhelmed the slower Spurs with athleticism. But then OKC spent much of the rest of the game imitating the team that just as famously lost those first two playoff games against the Spurs, and dropped the Finals in five games while looking completely overmatched tactically in doing so.
It’s an easy excuse to point out it was the Thunder’s fourth game in five days. But the Spurs had an even better ready-made excuse in playing without Tony Parker, and that didn’t stop them from turning around from a 13-point deficit early in the second quarter into a smackdown of a chief rival.
Serge Ibaka was a relative bright spot, collecting a double-double with almost half a game to spare and finishing with 13 points, 16 rebounds and his customary three blocks, but there wasn’t a lot to like about OKC’s performance after building that early double-digit lead. The Thunder went from looking great to looking lost seemingly from one possession to the next, and never really threatened, despite some late scoring to make the score less hideous. The box score says OKC had 17 turnovers, but I think someone in San Antonio was feeling charitable tonight.
Essentially, after the good Thunder start, the Spurs simply made adjustments to their machine and worked the Thunder like a speed bag. San Antonio’s long defenders were able to limit Kevin Durant’s opportunities at least a little, though some iffy calls contributed to putting him on the line often enough to earn a stat line that doesn’t do those defenders justice. A sub-par Russell Westbrook shooting night also contributed, but the Spurs used their trademark fluid offense to pick the Thunder apart on the offensive end to get the result they wanted.
OKC still gets one more shot at the Spurs, and at home. But this kind of effort, even on the heels of a recent surge, is not going to be much of a confidence builder. It’s a shame that the Thunder didn’t get another crack on San Antonio’s home floor except for the season opener in the fog of the James Harden trade, but that’s the way it happened.
I doubt the Thunder will really be fretting about one loss in March if they wind up playing the Spurs in the playoffs. But with a chance to get closer to ensuring they’ll get their shot in the postseason with home court advantage, the Thunder didn’t get it done.
- This might be a good time to point out that the Thunder have now lost eight of their last nine games in San Antonio, and the lone win involved a guy who isn’t on the team anymore making the shot of his life. Eight of nine. With home court for the Spurs looming in any potential playoff matchup.
- Somebody check on Royce. Nick Collison was a -24, worst on the team.
- Tim Duncan looked fantastic from the early going with two jumpers, followed by a little run down the court with some deft ball handling on a mini-break. I feel like we’re going to be saying “He’s GOT to slow down for real sometime” about him and Kobe for at least another five years.
- Oklahoma City’s early lead was built largely on good work and good luck on the boards, including the offensive end. OKC took a 13-point lead on the strength of a 16-2 run, and it looked like it might end up being a pleasant night for Thunder fans. It was not.
- He hasn’t really had a huge impact at an important time against the Thunder in a while, but I still shudder whenever I see DeJuan Blair enter the game. Only two rebounds in five minutes in this one, though.
- Kevin Martin came to play. Pretty active, and even a relatively uncharacteristic hard foul on Stephen Jackson in the second quarter. Nothing egregious, just one of those “no layups” type wrap-ups. Those are the little things you like to see when you’re looking for an aggressive attitude on the road, especially for a guy not known for hard-nosed defense.
- The Spurs’ comeback started on a sequence where they made three straight 3-pointers in the second quarter. You may not be surprised to learn that poor rotations (and good Spurs passing) were involved.
- Ibaka had a pretty crazy coast-to-coast early in the third quarter. He looked like Kendrick Perkins thinks he looks when he tries it.
- There was a strange moment late in the third quarter when Westbrook took a shot from nearly half court early in the clock. It looked like Westbrook anticipated a foul from Gary Neal and tried to turn it into a shooting foul. It didn’t work, and it wasn’t the best look.
Next up: Wednesday vs. Utah