The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder by a score of 105-93. In a game where neither team was at optimal strength, the Spurs used exceptional execution and balanced scoring to take a 2-1 lead in the season series. The Spurs were playing without injured All-Star point guard Tony Parker, but San Antonio more than made up for it by collecting 25 team assists which led to their shooting 52.4% from the floor. The Thunder, who were playing their 4th game in 5 nights, did not have the energy needed to come back against an 18 point 4th quarter deficit.
The Thunder jumped on the Spurs early with 32 first quarter points, however, San Antonio bounced back with a huge second quarter and entered the half up 57-50, a lead they would never relinquish.
Six Spurs scored in double-digits including a team-high 21 from Tiago Splitter. Splitter went 9-11 from the field and pulled down 10 boards. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard fueled San Anotnio's run in the second quarter combining for 15 points in the period. They combined for five three's in the game including Green's 4-4 night from beyond the arc.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 51 points, but took 40 shots to do so. Westbrook went 11-27 while Durant was much more efficient shooting 7-13 and 11-11 from the free-throw line. The Thunder as a team out-rebounded the Spurs 43-35 but turned it over 17 times, which led to 25 points.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
The Thunder got outplayed and out-coached by Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. After jumping out to a 32-22 lead in the first quarter, the Thunder fell apart defensively. At one point Scott Brooks went small and Popovich took advantage with a big lineup that included Splitter guarding Derek Fisher. It led to a 35-18 second quarter advantage for the Spurs and the Thunder never could crawl back into the game.
Westbrook and Durant were forcing things as well. Westbrook forced because he thought he could take advantage of Cory Joseph and Durant forced too much while trying to facilitate. They combined for nine turnovers, which ultimately led to an out-of-sync offense from the second quarter on.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
The Thunder lost a) because they played poor defense for the final 36 minutes and b) the Spurs couldn't miss during the second and third periods.
The Spurs shot over 68 percent from the field in the second period and over 52 percent in the third. The Thunder were slow to closeout on San Antonio's three's and slow to defend the top of the key off the pick-and-roll. In the end, Oklahoma City combined terrible defense and inconsistent offense, which almost always leads to a loss against good teams, especially the Spurs.
The Spurs bench outplayed the Thunder's bench as well. San Antonio's bench attack outscored Oklahoma City's 34-16. They also executed better than the Thunder's second-unit with 14 bench assists compared to Oklahoma City's two. Ultimately the Spurs showed their bench could be a critical factor if the two teams meet again in the playoffs.
A perfect example of the difference between the two was at the beginning of the 4th quarter, where the Thunder had their last best chance to get back into the game, trailing by 9. Instead of working their way back into the game, the Thunder bench went scoreless for over 3 minutes, missed 4 3-pointers, and turned the ball over 3 times. During that same stretch, the Spurs scored 9 unanswered points, which pushed the lead to 18 and all but finished the Thunder's chances.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Spurs shot nearly 70 percent from the field as they outscored the Thunder 35-18 in the second period.
San Antonio stole every bit of the Thunder's momentum in the second quarter as Leonard and Green went off against the Thunder's bench. Popovich let his starters battle it out against the Thunder's bench and it turned the game completely upside down after the Thunder jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter. The Spurs went 13-19 in the period including 4-5 from long range as the Thunder ended the quarter 8-20 from the field.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
In essence, this is just another regular season loss for the Thunder, but it also showed the Spurs can beat Oklahoma City if they meet again in the playoffs.
The Spurs bench is much better than it was a year ago and besides the injury to Tony Parker, they are almost completely healthy. It will be tough for the Spurs to take down Oklahoma City four times in seven games without one of the best point guards in the league, however, the Spurs expect Parker to be healthy by the time the two teams could potentially meet in the playoffs. If the two teams square off with Parker healthy, it could be a different series compared to last year.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 26 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, 13 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks
Thunder Blunder: The bench, which was outscored 34-16
Thunder Plunderer: Tiago Splitter, 21 points (9-11), 10 rebounds, 3 assists
Next game: vs the Utah Jazz on Wednesday March 13th at 7PM CDT
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