The Oklahoma City Thunder held on to a 100-88 win over the San Antonio Spurs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City Thursday and moved within 1/2 a game of the top seed in the Western Conference.
The Thunder's defensive execution after four straight days off proved to be key along with 17 points on 6-8 shooting from Derek Fisher off the bench.
Yes, Derek Fisher.
Fisher led the Thunder in the first half with 12 points and hit five threes in just over 14 minutes of action. The last time Fisher hit five threes in a game was Jan. 8, 2008. Russell Westbrook took it to the next level as he finished with a game-high 27 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Kevin Durant finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
The Spurs were led by Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard who each finished with 24 points. Leonard also pulled down 14 rebounds. Gary Neal had a nice performance off the bench with 14 points in a losing effort. Tony Parker seemed to injure his left ankle late in the game and didn't play the final seven minutes of the contest.
There were some caveats to this game. The Spurs were playing their 4th game in 5 nights, and were without Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson. This concludes a regular season series at 2-2, but unfortunately every game had caveats like these, so we still don't really know how the two teams match up at full strength.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
This was a huge win for the Thunder not only because of playoff positioning, but also because they needed a wakeup game. And who better to sound the alarm against than the Spurs? Oklahoma City stepped up and won a big game, which is always a good sign going into the postseason.
Oklahoma City's defense was swarming at points in the game and it was lackluster at times as well. To start the first and second half, the Thunder looked like the best defensive team in the league. But late in the game, they looked to let the Spurs back in it.
That cannot happen come playoff time. It has to be all out for 48 minutes. Westbrook stepped up and handled Parker all night. Parker finished with two points and four assists in just 25 minutes. At the start of the game Kevin Durant did a nice job on Leonard, especially running him off the three-point line.
There was a sense of urgency throughout the building as if it were a Western Conference Finals rematch in April. Sometimes the Thunder can start a game in sort of a lull. Not against the Spurs Thursday. They opened the game with intensity and finished it the same way. They held the Spurs scoreless for the final 2:31 of the game, which shows us signs that the postseason is right around the corner.
What do we take away from this game in light of the playoffs?
We have to take away the fact that the Thunder are ready for the Spurs.
There's no doubt the Spurs want another piece of the Thunder after being knocked out in the WCF last season. However, the Thunder seemed ready Thursday. There was an electricity in the building and the players fed off the crowd, which made it seem like game 1 of the playoffs had just started.
Oklahoma City's offensive execution looked on point as well. Of course there were still points in the game in which Westbrook and Durant tried to take over themselves. However, for the most part they moved the ball around the perimeter and found open shots. Fisher benefited from the ball movement with 17 points as all five of his threes came off ball movement around the perimeter.
We saw it last season. The Thunder took better care of the ball and ran better offensive sets once the playoffs started. It seems like they are starting to kick it into the same gear they started the playoffs with a year ago.
What does this game mean to the Thunder going forward?
Most regular season games don't mean much, but this one is different. This one was against the Thunder's biggest challenger in the West and it came at exactly the right time. What more could you ask for?
They also found out that not only can Sefolosha shut down Tony Parker, Westbrook can too. That could be a huge factor if they meet again in the Western Conference Finals.
"We weren't very physical to start the game. I thought they came out more aggressively than we did. I thought it was a game where we got more and more physical and more aggressive." -Gregg Popovich
"I just have to get healthy. I'm not going to talk about all my stuff. I've got a lot of stuff going on but I just have to get healthy. Like I said, it's not an excuse I just have to get healthy. OKC, I give them a lot of credit, they played great. Durant was great, Russell played great and they just beat us tonight." -Tony Parker
"Russell (Westbrook) did a great job on Tony Parker. Everybody was really into it; ready to play, ready to play defense and ready to play offense. When we play like this, with that type of energy, I think we have a good shot." -Thabo Sefolosha
|Final - 4.4.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|San Antonio Spurs||18||26||27||17||88|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||29||23||25||23||100|
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 27 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds
Thunder Down Under: Derek Fisher, 17 points including 5 threes
Thunder Blunder: Kevin Martin, 2 points (1-6) in 21 minutes
Thunder Plunderer: Kawahi Leonard, 24 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists
Next game: at the Indiana Pacers on Friday April 5th at 7PM CDT
If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.