The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the San Antonio Spurs on the road, 116-102. In the latest game where OKC has struggled, the Spurs controlled the game nearly throughout and were never truly threatened. The Thunder drop their 4th in a row and 2nd without Paul George, who was out again with a sore shoulder. The loss drops them to 38-24, clinging perilously to the 3rd seed, and are 1-5 since an All-Star weekend many thought would act as a healthy rest period for OKC.
At the risk of abdicating recapping responsibility, this game featured precious little to analyze. For the second game in a row, OKC came out of the opening tip confused defensively and unorganized offensively. The Spurs had little trouble building an early 16 point lead, creating easy scoring opportunities for LaMarcus Aldridge. While OKC once again had a response in the 2nd quarter, closing the gap to 9 at the half, it was short-lived.
Coming out of the break, the Thunder started off the 2nd half promising, but after a quick surge that pulled them to within 5, the Spurs responded with a 10-2 run that effectively ended the game. OKC would trail heading into the 4th by 14 and never provided much resistance.
Here is another way to look at it — after OKC scored 38 in the 2nd quarter to show signs of life, they only managed to score 39 points the rest of the way, despite holding the Spurs to 40% shooting for the entire 2nd half.
Steven Adams was a strong presence inside, finishing with 17-13 (6 offensive), and Markieff Morris continued his acclimation with 10 points in 22 minutes, their individual success is undermined by the team’s continued lack of focus at key points in the game. While we can point fingers at a number of players, to me this loss (and the last one) is mostly about coaching.
Knowing that they would be without Paul George, it was incumbent on Billy Donovan to construct a game plan that would play to OKC’s strengths and help them bridge the gap left by the injured NBA’s February player of the month. Instead, we saw very little game plan at all, unless their game plan was predicated on taking early-shot clock contested jumpers by Westbrook and Schroder. Donovan has grown in his coaching this year, but these are true tests — when the team is missing its most important player, the coach has to show his team how they can still win.
Oddly enough, this loss makes me think back to the loss to the Pelicans before ASW. A loss as inexcusable as any, since Anthony Davis had checked out and they were 2 steps away from going into tank mode. Yet OKC was outplayed on both ends of the court despite advantages at nearly every position and facing a team in disarray. Subsequently, OKC’s defense has fallen apart, and were it not for a picturesque game-winning floater against the Jazz, the Thunder would be looking at a 6 game losing streak.
Nobody knows if George will suit up tomorrow, but that game is no guarantee either. A month ago, a team might look forward to playing the Grizzlies. Except Memphis just rocked the Mavericks by 30, and their super-rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t even play.
If the Thunder don’t have an actual effective strategy tomorrow, a similar outcome is possible.