For the first time in 11 games, the Oklahoma City Thunder played all-out, intense defense for 48 minutes and knocked off the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs, 94-88 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder held San Antonio, the league's second best shooting team (.492 percent) to 39.1 percent Wednesday and came away with seven steals and seven blocks. They executed Scott Brooks' defensive game plan better than they have all year and it wasn't just the team's starting unit that locked down.
In both the second and fourth quarters, the 'B-Team' set the tempo.
Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher helped turn a 21-19, first quarter deficit into a 32-29 lead five minutes into the second quarter. Then the same three players helped turn a seven-point lead in to a 10-point lead nearly four minutes into the fourth.
Jackson and Lamb played their finest game as a combo off the Thunder's bench.
Jackson poured in 23 points (10-14 FG-FGA) in 26 minutes and was easily Oklahoma City's most efficient scorer. Lamb chipped in 12 on 5-7 shooting, including two triples. The two outscored Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook 35-30.
Westbrook was off. Way off. He went 2-16 from the field, including 0-5 from three. He missed tough, contested shots, but missed shots he normally hits as well. However, offensively, his significance showed from the second quarter into the third.
For a stretch in the second, Westbrook and Durant started to force the issue. San Antonio's defense was smothering in the first half and the Thunder's starters never really developed continuity. It threw Westbrook and Durant into iso-mode and the two combined for five points on 2-10 shooting in the quarter.
In the third, it was evident Brooks preached ball-movement at halftime.
The Thunder dished out 10 assists on 12 makes in the third, as many as they had in the first two quarters combined. Westbrook and Durant combined for six of the 10 helpers and ran the offense through Serge Ibaka, who took eight shots in the period.
Westbrook, on a number of occasions, opted to pull-back from driving the lane and forcing a contested shot. Instead, he moved the ball and it led to four dimes.
Jackson led the way in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder's unofficial sixth-man scored 14 of his 23 points in the final 12 minutes, eight-straight coming in the first 3:14 of the period. He shot 6-7 from the field during the period and helped the Thunder extend their home winning streak to seven to open the season.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Well, what would you have said if I told you the Thunder would beat the Spurs, who are coming off 11-straight wins, with Westbrook shooting 2-16 and the team, not just Durant, shooting 15 free throws?
It took the best defensive effort the Thunder have turned in to beat the Spurs on Wednesday. Westbrook, to his credit, played intense, Westbrook-like defense for 32 minutes. Thabo Sefolosha played the best defense he's played this season. Lamb, Jackson and Fisher were all three dominant defending the perimeter. Ibaka blocked five shots and was the possibly the biggest reason the Spurs shot under 40 percent. Air-Congo was bullying down the stretch of the game.
"They're a hard team to guard," Brooks said after the game. "They're the hottest team in the league. We did a good job with their length and making them miss shots. I thought defense was the key tonight."
So the Thunder won a game without Westbrook and Durant dominating the offensive end and they played better defense than a great defensive team. And it was against the defending conference champs.
That has to be encouraging, right?
What was the overall reason the Thunder won?
Defense (as stated above).
The bench played a major role in the victory as well.
As a unit, they scored 39 points, dished out six assists and pulled down 13 boards. They sparked the team in the second and fourth quarters as Jackson and Lamb had their dynamic duo, coming-out party off the Thunder's bench.
What was the key statistic to understanding the game?
The Spurs shooting 39.1 percent shooting COMBINED with Jackson and Lamb outscoring Westbrook and Durant, 35-30. If that's a statistic.
Jackson and Lamb outscoring Westbrook and Durant is a true testament to the Thunder's bench. Which, in turn, is a true testament to the Thunder as a team.
Also, holding the Spurs to under 40 percent shooting while Westbrook and Durant struggled to score is a true testament to everything.
What does this game mean going forward?
This has to be a very encouraging win for the Thunder.
It means the Thunder's bench is growing and they showed having 2-3 scoring threats off the bench can be much greater than just one.
It also sends a message to the rest of the Western Conference: When the Thunder defend, they're the best team in the conference.
Thunder Wonder: Reggie Jackson (23 points on 10-14 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assits)
Thunder Down Under: Jeremy Lamb (12 points on 5-7 shooting, 2-3 from three)
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook's offense (6 points on 2-16 shooting, 0-5 from three)
Thunder Plunderer: Kawhi Leonard (14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals)
Next game: vs. Golden State Warriors (Nov. 29th) @ 7:00 PM CDT.
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