SAN ANTONIO — The visiting locker room inside AT&T Center maintained an unharmed and unmistakable silence.
Players muttered barely a peep, and the intruders with the cameras and microphones dared not interrupt what clearly was a preference for soothing stillness.
Every few seconds, a singular profanity would spring from around the corner, where running water rained down from the showers. It was all that pierced through the air.
Over time, the atmosphere loosened. But if ever there was a need for the league-mandated 10-minute cool-off period in the regular season, this was it.
“It's tough to lose like that,” said Kevin Durant after Oklahoma City lost 86-84 Thursday night to San Antonio in the season opener.
This was only game one of a marathon 82-game season. But for 48 minutes, it had the look and feel of a Game 7 that we never witnessed between these two heavyweights in the Western Conference Finals.
And judging by the schoolyard-style celebration the San Antonio Spurs commenced — huddling up at the halfway point of the scorer's table and jumping for joy — after Tony Parker ripped the hearts out of the Thunder, both teams wanted this one bad.
It wasn't to be for Oklahoma City.
The Thunder fell after Parker drained a buzzer-beating, game-winning 21-foot jump shot. It was a sour ending to an otherwise encouraging performance that saw the Thunder claw back from a double-digit second half deficit while integrating recently-acquired guard Kevin Martin.
“We're very proud,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I thought both teams were tough as nails. Nobody gave anything up … That was a great first game and way to open the season.”
Parker scored 14 points with a game-high 11 assists to captain the Spurs to one of their patented methodical wins that displayed crisp offense and precise, if not shutdown defense. On his game-winning shot, Parker ran the baseline and curled off a screen and found himself wide open enough to take a dribble in and set his feet before firing.
“I got lost,” said Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. “My fault. I'll take this one.”
Moments earlier, Parker buried the game-tying 3-pointer with 28.3 seconds left, giving the Spurs new life right when they appeared to be doomed by a broken play. Spurs guard Danny Green nearly threw the ball out of bounds while trying to feed a wide open Boris Diaw underneath the rim. Diaw, however, saved the ball directly to Parker behind the left corner and the Spurs point guard coolly knocked down a 3.
“The 3 was a scramble play,” Brooks said. “You give them credit. It ended up he was able to save that and find the shooter in the corner. He made a tough shot. That's not one of his strengths, shooting 3s. But he stepped up and knocked it in.”
The Thunder couldn't rely on its biggest strength on this night, a potent offensive attack. OKC shot just 37.7 percent against one of the league's perennially tough defenses. Much of the Thunder's struggles stemmed from turnovers (18) and a night of a few poor shot or downright dominance in the paint by San Antonio.
“They're a really good defensive team, but we got layups we missed, we missed some wide-open 3s and some wide open jumpers,” Durant said. “But that's how the game goes. I think we put ourselves in a position to win. If we're not making shots, we still play defense and I think we did that.”
The shooting woes didn't define the debut of Martin, who scored 15 points on 4-for-10 shooting, going 3-for-6 from beyond the arc.
“He is an unbelievable player,” said Durant. “He came in and played his role to a tee. He passed the ball; five assists, a couple of rebounds and he shot the ball well. That's what we need from him all season.”