The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 86-84. In the first rematch between last season's two Western Conference Finalists, the Spurs got a small measure of revenge by out-hustling and ultimately outshining the Thunder late in the game.
The Thunder had a 3 point lead with less than a half a minute to go, but Tony Parker nailed a 3-pointer in the corner to tie it. The Spurs got the ball back following OKC's 18th turnover of the game, and once again Parker got the call. He received a pass on the wing and with time running out calmly hit a 20 foot jumper as the final buzzer sounded.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Oh how nice it would have been this week to see the Thunder go into San Antonio and come out with a big win. Perhaps it would not have erased the bitterness of seeing James Harden leave, but it at least would have reminded us that the Thunder are still a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, the Thunder's late-game offensive struggles resurfaced yet again and this time they did not have a calming influence to get them across the finish line. Despite being up 3 points with the ball, the Thunder could not produce another point in the final 1:25 of the game. This opening was enough, and it allowed Tony Parker to score the final 5 points of regulation, sending OKC to a painful loss.
Make no mistake - despite playing poorly for most of the night, this was a game the Thunder should have won because of their talent and determination, yet they let it slip away.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
Neither team was playing its best offensive ball on the night. A year after these two teams went 1-2 in offensive efficiency, neither the Spurs nor Thunder could generate any sense of rhythm on the night. The game was a back-and-forth affair defined by ebbs and flows rather than strong sequences. Credit the Thunder for not giving in after falling behind by 10 seven minutes into the 3rd. OKC ramped up its defense and outscored the Spurs the rest of the way, 15-5 to tie the game heading into the 4th. The run was punctuated by Eric Maynor's 3/4 court buzzer beater.
Never the less, the game came down to those final few minutes, and the Thunder's last basket of the game came with 3:31 left when Kevin Martin hit a 3-pointer, tying the game. The offense simply fell apart, with Durant only getting one final shot attempt during that stretch. OKC simply must find better ways to utilize their scoring champion when it matters most.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The game overall was very choppy, with the referees allowing a lot of contact under the rim. I think that over the course of the game the physicality got into the Thunder players' heads a bit. Westbrook in particular kept looking to draw the fouls on offense, but rather than take a different tactic when those calls did not come, he instead tried even harder. Westbrook was able to get to the free throw line 4 times in the final 2:12, but it came at the expense of him forcing a number of high difficulty shots that drew neither a foul nor the rim.
OKC's most effective late game offense was nowhere in sight, and it is difficult to see why. The Spurs were active on defense, but their personnel is no different than it was a year ago when OKC shredded them on a regular basis.
In the end, I think that the Thunder lost their cool a bit on the road in front of a hostile crowd and did not put their best effort forward that could have delivered a win.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
There is no time for tears because tomorrow the Thunder must return home and welcome the Laker-killer Portland Trail Blazers. The Thunder effort was where it needed to be, but a higher level of concentration and execution will be necessary to avoid falling to 0-2.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 23 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals.
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Martin, 15 points in his Thunder debut.
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka, who followed a strong preseason by only scoring 4 points in 31 minutes.
Thunder Plunderer: Tony Parker, for scoring the final 5 points of the game to steal the win from OKC.
|Final - 11.1.2012
|Oklahoma City Thunder
|San Antonio Spurs
Next game: vs the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, Nov. 2 at 7PM CDT at Chesapeake Arena
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