Oh man. You just hate to see losses like this. The game starts off so promising, with your team taking a commanding lead. Then, that lead slowly fades away until the dream totally crashes in the fourth quarter. It's kind of like watching a NASCAR race, when Driver B makes a pit stop for new tires while Driver A only takes a splash of gas, and it's only a matter of time until Driver B catches up. Driver A's fate is already sealed, but it doesn't make watching what's unfolding any less painful.
But, let's take it from the top. The first quarter was all Thunder, with the Spurs struggling to keep up while shooting from the free throw line, and the thunder going 5/5 on their first 5 shots. Then, Antonio McDyess came in the game, and the Thunder started to focus on pounding the ball inside and getting fouled. While not a very entertaining way of leading the game, it did give the Thunder a 12 Point Cushion towards the end of the first. But a couple of really clutch shots from the Spurs towards the end cut the lead down to 5 by the end of the first.
The second quarter was a bit of a Thunder revival. The Thunder had 5 guys on the floor who could all hit mid-rangs shots, and the strategy worked pretty well, pushing the Thunder back to a 9 point lead midway through the second. The rest of the quarter was mostly a see-saw battle, with a complete defensive breakdown of both teams. When it was all said and done, the Thunder maintained a 5 point lead.
Below: The Rest of the Game, Why We Lost, Individual Player Analysis, The Spurs Future!
The third was long and drawn out, with the Thunder continuing to lose their lead. It started off with a 7 consecutive point DeJuan Blair explosion that tied both teams at 68. Jeff Green wasn't providing much resistance. The onslaught continued until Ibaka entered the game. He succeeded in defensively locking down the paint, allowing the Thunder to slowly grind out points at the other end. This kept the game close, but whenever the thunder would have a bit of success, the Spurs would throw another dagger at the Thunder, putting an end to the Run. Going into the 4th, the Thunder trailed by 2.
And from then on, it was an absolute nightmare. Matt Bonner and Manu Ginobili were the heroes for the Spurs, as they seemed to hit shots from every spot on the floor. The Thunder couldn't get much ball movement going at the other end, leading to desperation shots near the end of the shot clock, or a less than desirable shot before then. Before the Thunder finally got their offense going again, the Spurs were leading by 9 and absolutely on fire. The Spurs hit a few more threes and easily sealed the game. The Thunder fought hard, but couldn't escape the fact that they just didn't have that kind of firepower or luck behind the arc tonight. Final Score: 117-104.
The odd thing about the fourth though is that the vast majority of it was spent smallballing, with Durant at Center. Yet, the Spurs weren't owning the Thunder on the inside (though they certainly did the few times they tried). Rather, they managed to make three after three. I was having flashbacks to pickup games I play where I have to guard a guy who can actually shoot beyond 12 feet. It was a travesty.
So, why didn't Jeff Green and Nick Collison make the difference? Well, Jeff Green was getting destroyed defensively, and I never saw Nick Collison (Thunder Blunder) do much at all, except turn the ball over. He only had 2 turnovers, but they looked really, really bad. Especially when the ball bounced out of his hands like he was Etan Thomas. They'll definitely need some time before they're back to full form.
But the main reason for this loss was the fact that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were just not on point offensively. KD was missing tough shots and turning the ball over like it was covered in slime. Russell Westbrook wasn't as bad, but he missed a few shots of his own as well. Harden (Thunder Down Under), Ibaka (Thunder Wonder), and Maynor all had nice nights off of the bench tonight, and with all due respect to Westbrook and Durant, they kept the Thunder in this game throughout the 2nd and 3rd. They scored 14, 13, and 12 respectively. Krstic was his typical self, scoring 6 Points, grabbing 5 rebounds and playing no defense, while Sefolosha struggled against the quick Spurs guards and had only 3 Points, 2 Rebounds, and a Steal.
The Spurs, if they stay healthy, can be this season's surprise championship contender. Nearly every player on their roster is capable of exploding offensively, so even when stars struggle (Duncan had only 6 Points), others are able to step up (Bonner (Thunder Plunderer) had 21 Points while going 7 of 7 from beyond the arc). But, once the injuries do hit, this team will start to show some chinks in their armor, especially since the win against the Thunder is probably their best so far. While their regular season record might leave them as a 4 or 5 seed, they'll definitely know what to do in the playoffs, and might make a run similar to last year's Celtics. Expect this team to be an extremely tough opponent the next time we see them, especially since they've beaten us at all facets of the offensive game.
Next Game: At the Utah Jazz, Monday, November 15th, 8 PM Central Standard Time.