What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Disappointment. Things were looking so bright heading into the fourth quarter. The Thunder stayed in the game in the first half by dominating the paint, trapping perfectly in the back court and open court, and getting out in transition. The shooting was horrible, but they found a way through it. In the third, the Thunder opened up a huge lead by playing fantastic perimeter defense. But they weren't getting out in transition as much as they used to, and were resorting to shooting some difficult jump shots. It worked for a while, but when things came down to it in the fourth, the Thunder couldn't hit and they responded by mindlessly driving into the lane. The offense collapsed, and the Spurs started hitting threes. But the Thunder's fate was sealed when the Spurs decided to go small, and the Thunder couldn't defend the paint worth a darn.
What was tonight's turning point?
The game was pretty much over when Harden and Fisher missed back to back threes with a minute to go and the Thunder down by 7. The Thunder had been treading water at that point, but they weren't making any headway and time was running out. There were a couple of meaningless Thunder threes at the end of the game, but nobody took them seriously.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder lost?
The bench wings, Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili. Durant had a reasonably efficient game while playing against Kawhi Leonard, but when Stephen Jackson was switched onto him, he really struggled. Jackson is bigger and more physical, and was able to keep Durant out of the lane. When Durant did get down low, he mostly got fouled or turned the ball over. All in all, he was kept out on the perimeter, and the ball was out of his hands. Ginobili's significance was obvious. He started off with an amazing recovery from two turnovers and a blocked shot early on, let it evolve into some tough shots in the second quarter, and finished it with some outright domination in the fourth. Couldn't have asked for a more perfect game from the guy.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
In the first half, the Thunder had already hit their season average for steals (9) and offensive rebounds (9), and were one short of their season average for blocks (8). In the second half, they had no offensive rebounds, two more steals, and two more blocks. Granted, the Thunder built up a significant lead in the third quarter without getting any of these stats, but it shows how the Spurs were able to slow down the game to a more controlled pace, and eventually take the game over.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
The loss puts them down 0-1 in a seven game series with San Antonio. They still have one more opportunity to steal home court advantage before heading back home, and there is a lot of optimism you can take from tonight's loss. Still, a loss is a loss, and the Thunder are now playing catch up. (Or ketchup, your pick.)
Thunder Wonder: Derek Fisher. Some amazing clutch shooting tonight, and he wasn't too much of a defensive liability.
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, for some great all-around play in the first half.
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook. Harden and Durant were here and there, but Westbrook was nowhere to be found tonight.
Thunder Plunderer: Manu Ginobili, for some fantastic offense when the Spurs most needed it.