SAN ANTONIO — There was a moment in the third quarter, when things were completely unraveling, where Kawhi Leonard scored off yet another horrific Thunder turnover. Scott Brooks hustled off the bench to call another timeout as Kevin Durant pulled the ball from the net, dropped his head and spiked it off the floor. For a second, I thought Durant might punt it into the upper deck. The frustration was at the highest level I think I’ve ever seen it for the Thunder, a team completely dumbfounded by what was happening.
After the issues of Game 1, chalked up to the standard “energy,” “effort” and “didn’t make shots” justifications, I fully expected a major performance from the Thunder tonight. Maybe not a win, but at least a crunchtime kind of game that was going to come down to big players making big shots.
Instead, Durant and Westbrook spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench, forced to hate-watch the final 12 minutes like it was an episode of The Walking Dead. They endured a combined 30-point night (15 points apiece) on 13-of-40 shooting, which resulted in the worst playoff loss in Thunder history, a 35-point embarrassment.
As the Spurs continued to pour it on, the narrative started to change, too. This is about more than just Serge Ibaka. The Thunder were getting absolutely run, at a loss for any kind of answer anywhere.
Obviously, the thing to do after this one was hark back two years to 2012 when the Thunder dug an 0-2 hole only to come back with a Game 3 blowout win and four straight wins.
“We’ve been here before,” Durant said. “That’s all we can say. We try not to say since we were down 0-2 two years ago and we end up winning, we’ll do the same thing. We’ve really got to figure it out on how we need to get better, and we’ve always done that.”
No question, though, this time things feel quite differently. First, no James Harden or Serge Ibaka. Second, two blowout losses, one worse than the other. And third, the Spurs are better this time around. Kawhi Leonard was a rookie in 2012, and Danny Green — who hit 7-10 from 3 tonight — was essentially benched. Durant and Westbrook are more monstrous than they were as bright-eyed 23-year-olds, but the Thunder’s supporting cast has been thinned significantly, both by injuries and other variables.
So if you’re just expecting for time to remain a flat circle, you may find yourself disappointed. The Thunder are shaken pretty severely here, at at complete loss for answers. Scott Brooks tried a number of things tonight, from Perry Jones at shooting guard to Perry Jones at center. The Thunder changed their pick-and-roll coverages a little, tried to pack the paint far more, and dared the Spurs to shoot. They got punished again, just in a different way.
It all started to slip in the second quarter, collapsing a quality start from the Thunder in which they led 26-24 after the first. A few defensive lapses started a Spurs run to close the half, and opened up a 58-44 halftime deficit.
“I messed the game up at the end of the second quarter,” Durant said. “I got hit on the screen and Danny Green got open for 3. I over-helped, and he got another 3 and then Ginobili hit a 3. All those plays were on me. It was my fault and I take full responsibility for it. Wish they wouldn’t have happened. I can’t get them back now, but I’ll take that one. As I said, we shouldn’t have been down that much at halftime, but I made three bonehead plays.”
The Spurs just carried on, eventually stretching out what amounted to a 43-14 run. Or a 99-51 blowout over the final three quarters.
“They gave up on the game pretty early,” Boris Diaw said.
It was just a complete destruction. The Spurs executed and carved the Thunder up in every way, and there was never a counter-punch, much less a counter-anything. The Thunder accepted their butt-whipping.
“We’re down 0-2,” Durant said. “If they’d have won this game by one point, we still would have been down 0-2. You know, it’s easy for you to go hide and run and be negative and clash, but it’s hard for you to stay positive at a time like this when we lost by a lot two games in a row. It’s hard for you to stay together, but we have a group of guys that’s not frontrunners, and we’ll figure it out.”
I’ve seen so many people say dumb things like, “A championship team OVERCOMES an injury. The Spurs would have.” I can say with a considerable amount of confidence that if you removed Kawhi Leonard, or Tony Parker, or Tim Duncan, the Spurs would be in serious postseason trouble. When is the last title team that suffered a major injury in the middle of the postseason and went on to win a title? Take Bosh off the Heat — what happens? Take David West from the Pacers — what happens? It’s simple sports, people. Systems and coaching are major important parts, but the players play, and the players win.
Now, that doesn’t excuse a 35-point blowout. Beating the Spurs was going to take a monumental effort without Ibaka, but we were right to expect a competition at least. The Thunder have only played about 18 decent minutes in this series so far, and we haven’t gotten a taste of the Westbrook-Durant two-man show that should be Hodoring this team on their back. They’re better than this. They have played like absolute butt, and the Spurs are the kind of juggernaut that will punish you for such sins. It’s an unforgivable performance, but the Thunder still have to be beaten two more times.
They’re wounded, and they’re down. Inside the locker room, they’re shaken. There was an incredible amount of confidence internally going into this game with one player making a promise to me that they’d win. And he meant it so much I almost drove to Vegas overnight to bet my life savings. So you can imagine how they feel after dropping that deuce out there tonight.
But I’m not writing them off. I’ve seen them do too much. You can if you want. Completely understandable if you do. But I’m not going to.
- Amazing stat: The Thunder took only 10 free throws, which included only three after the first quarter.
- The Thunder went 5-10 from the line. Danny Green went 7-10 from 3.
- Another surreal stat from Anthony Slater: Danny Green: 37 points, 13-18 shooting, 11-15 on 3s. Thabo Sefolosha: zero points, 0-9 shooting, 0-3 on 3s. Those are your two starting shooting guards.
- I’m reading through Scott Brooks’ postgame transcript and he basically just says random sentences. “We didn’t shoot the ball well. We didn’t get to the line. We’ve got to play much better. We didn’t shoot well. They made shots. One thing I like about our team…”
- Perry Jones played. In part because of foul trouble, but he got time on the floor. I don’t think he made the impact that was anticipated by some fans, but he did do a few things.
- Thabo Sefolosha has been completely worthless through two games. I don’t see how you can justify starting him in Game 3. The common sense move is Caron Butler, but I’d consider going with Jones. He started a number of games at 2-guard this season, and would give OKC much needed length and athleticism.
- The Thunder have six total blocks so far through two games. Serge Ibaka averaged four a game against the Spurs this season.
- Just 2-20 from the 3-point line for OKC.
- Westbrook on shot selection: “It’s easy to say that now when we miss them, but when we make them two weeks ago, there’s nothing said,” Westbrook said. “So now it’s a problem when we miss. But that’s how it goes.”
- That is a very true statement about OKC’s offense. The shots are always pretty much bad, but sometimes they go in, because the players are very good.
- Three Thunder players took free throws tonight (Durant, Adams and Lamb). Westbrook didn’t get to the line once.
- Adams got 33 minutes tonight, and a lot of it came in garbage time. But I don’t see how he shouldn’t play at least 30 meaningful ones in Game 3. He makes an obvious difference when he’s on the floor. He needs to play.
- Durant’s 15 points ties his postseason low output, the other coming in Game 4 against the Grizzlies.
- Durant was pretty snippy postgame. “Of course everybody is going to try to spread us apart these next few days, but we’ve never been a team that frontruns. We always stick together no matter what. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.”
- I find it hilarious, and by hilarious I mean annoying as hell, that so many fans just regurgitate the same talking points about Brooks, as in “Why doesn’t he adjust?!?!” Uh, he was out there throwing everything he could think of tonight. Not saying they were smart moves, but you can’t say he’s not trying things.
- Adams was OKC’s first sub, playing with Kendrick Perkins for a few minutes. That’s the first time this season those two have played together.
- Thabo started the game on Tony Parker. Didn’t have the same kind of impact it did in 2012.
- Derek Fisher needed 0.4 seconds against the Spurs. Nick Collison only needed 0.1. The only highlight from a forgettable game.
- Durant is good at a lot of basketball things, but he is definitely not very good at halfcourt heaves.
- Hey, Jeremy Lamb did pretty good!
- Just 54 points in the paint for the Spurs. Improvement!
Next up: Game 3 in OKC on Sunday