Spurs 114, Thunder 105
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday night’s loss to San Antonio.
- Early in the third quarter this one had the look and feel of the road game at Orlando. The Thunder was dead in the water and should have been finished. But they kept chipping away and chipping away. Then all of a sudden it was a game. Only this time, there was no magic left in the tank.
- Spurs forward Danny Green, of all people, had the play of the game when he sealed the win on a stolen inbounds pass from James Harden to Russell Westbrook. It gave the Spurs a 111-105 lead and iced it.
- Tim Duncan’s play just before that was a close second for play of the night. Duncan answered a huge 3-pointer by Kevin Durant with a turnaround jumper and the foul. He missed the free throw, but the bucket put San Antonio ahead by four with a minute left. Big time answer. If the Spurs don’t get that, I’m not sure they win this game.
- Interesting that for two years Thunder coach Scott Brooks has insisted on having Thabo Sefolosha in the game late to inbound the ball. There was a time when many questioned that decision. But two games into Sefolosha’s return from a foot injury, Brooks opted for Harden to inbound it rather than inserting Sefolosha. And we saw it backfire. Harden made a lazy pass and it ended up being the ballgame.
- Royal Ivey was playing his tail off, but Brooks could have replaced Ivey with Sefolosha and gotten his best inbounder into the game.
- Brooks on the personnel decision for the inbound pass: “I thought of that. I believe that Thabo is one of the best at throwing the ball inbounds. That’s a tough thing to do and it showed tonight. That was a tough play. It was not a good pass by James. But it’s something that we have to get better at because with Thabo, there’s times when he’s not going to be able to throw it in.”
- Brooks said he’s trying to limit Sefolosha to about 14 minutes a night while he continues to get acclimated.
- Defensive rebounding. My goodness. What is it going to take for the Thunder to close out possessions? In the first quarter, the Thunder was out-rebounded 18-7. The Spurs had as many offensive rebounds as the Thunder had total. And San Antonio converted those into 10 second-chance points. For the game, the Spurs out-rebounded the Thunder 49-37 and grabbed 15 offensive boards.
- Those 15 offensive rebounds led to 24 second chance points.
- No Manu Ginobili in this one. The Spurs were resting him as he continues to recover from a hip injury. Word is he’ll play tomorrow at Dallas.
- Don’t look now, but the Spurs are just three games back of the Thunder for first place in the West. Good thing Spurs coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t care for home court advantage or seeding. He said before the game that it’s proven that his teams can win or lose from anywhere. Doubt we can say the same about the Thunder. OKC needs home court.
- You’ve got to give the Thunder a ton of credit tonight. These guys easily could have rolled over when they got down by 27 late in the second quarter. But they kept battling. I thought that was the big takeaway from tonight’s game. One night after getting a nice bounce-back win to get the bad taste of a blowing a big lead out of its mouth, the Thunder salvaged some of that positive momentum with its comeback effort. Regardless of the loss, this seems like something to build on. Had the Thunder gotten blown out and not shown any fight whatsoever, there would be a completely different feel right now.
- Having said that, these guys have to start playing four quarters of basketball. Heck, three quarters might suffice.
- Brooks on the comeback effort: “I like our guys. I like how they fight. They never give up. Very rarely are we every down by that large of a margin. And if it does happen, I know that they’re going to come back and give it everything they have.”
- The Thunder is just 4-4 in its past eight games and 6-4 since the All-Star break. It took more than a month for the Thunder to lose its first four games this season.
- OKC also has lost two straight at home for the first time this season. And that’s now three losses in the past four home games.
- Quote of the night. “They should have booed us in the first half. But they didn’t, and they kept us in it.” That’s Durant on Thunder fans.
- Here’s what I don’t understand. How are the Spurs that good? Everybody says they’ve been playing together for years and know each other and blah, blah, blah. That simply isn’t true. Kawhi Leonard is a rookie. Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter and James Anderson are in their second seasons. Blair and Green are in their third seasons. That means six of the nine players that played tonight for the Spurs have two years experience or less. But yet, they move the ball with precision on offense, rotate and play on a string on defense and don’t get rattled or make many glaring mistakes. How can that be? Coaching? Pop’s system has been in place for years and years and years. But that still doesn’t make it easy to pick it up, especially for a group of youngsters like the six I named. So what is it?
- At least Matt Bonner didn’t go bananas again.
- Daequan Cook sat this one out because of shoulder soreness. Stinks, too, because not only could the Thunder have used him but it also came one night after Cook regained his rhythm in Denver after a return to the bench.
- Brooks played Lazar Hayward 8 1/2 minutes tonight and basically explained it by saying he’s been working his butt off. Still, it was a strange move considering Sefolosha is back and Ivey has been tearing it up lately. Brooks sympathized with Zar’s shots not falling. He missed all three of his attempts, two being 3s. “He had two 3s that were in and out,” Brooks said, “Unfortunately for him, he got robbed. But he works hard and he deserves to make those shots.”
- Ivey was incredible. His defense was outstanding. In the fourth quarter, Brooks switched Ivey onto Parker. And Ivey did work. Some of the best D he’s played all season.
- I don’t know what’s up with Harden’s shoulder. I’m told the wrap many of you probably saw him have on was heat. Could be something. Could be nothing.
- At halftime, Durant had nine points on 2-for-7 shooting. By comparison, Spurs big man DeJuan Blair had 18 on 9-of-11. Not a great night for KD.
- I hated some of the shots Westbrook took tonight, but the truth of the matter is that without him the Thunder wouldn’t have stood a chance in this one. He had a game-high 36 points on 13-of-29 shooting and had six assists, three steals and three boards. Westbrook got a little trigger happy late, and it looked like it was a direct result of Tony Parker going nuts at the other end. At that point, Westbrook was about to shoot the Thunder out of the game. He can’t forget about his teammates in those moments. But, as I said, the game would have been a blowout if not for Westbrook. Just that kind of night.
- Blair was a beast all night, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Everybody still made the Thunder passed on him?
- Remember the last time Duncan stepped inside Oklahoma City? He stunk! Tonight: 16 points, a game-high 19 rebounds and a team-high five blocked shots.
- Serge Ibaka pounded the glass hard all night and finished with 12 boards while adding 12 points for his ninth double-double of the season. Why Ibaka played just 25 minutes is beyond me. He had six blocks tonight and was making his presence felt. I know the small ball lineup was in play tonight. But I think we’re getting to the point where Ibaka might need to be a part of every lineup, even with the mistakes he sometimes makes defensively.
- The Spurs were shooting 57.8 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from 3-point range at halftime. They were shooting 57.1 percent from the free throw line.
- What’s up with the Thunder and “soreness?” I swear, these guys miss more games because of “soreness.”
- Up next. Blazers on Sunday. Another 8:30 start.
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