SAN ANTONIO — If you’re searching for a silver lining from the Thunder’s showing in Game 1 of the West Finals — and why wouldn’t you be — look no further than the first seven minutes of the third quarter.
While much of the focus in the aftermath of Oklahoma City’s 122-105 loss to San Antonio has been on all that the Thunder did wrong, those first seven minutes of that third period showcased plenty that OKC did right.
As the Thunder prepped for Wednesday night’s Game 2 back inside AT&T Center, that one stretch stood as the blueprint for how to get back in this series.
“We saw a little stretch where we played better,” said forward Nick Collison. “So that needs to be our new normal, and that needs to be how we play for the majority of the game.”
In the first seven minutes of the third, the Thunder buckled down defensively and stormed back from an early 11-point, third-quarter deficit. OKC swarmed to the ball, tightened its pick-and-roll coverage and turned defense into offense.
San Antonio shot 3 of 12 over that stretch and committed three turnovers.
When the Spurs suffered from the same stagnant start that plagued OKC in the opening minutes of the first period, the Thunder peeled off a 17-5 run to take an improbable one-point lead with 5:09 remaining in the frame.
“I think what we did in the third quarter is what we have to do throughout the game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We can’t let them feel comfortable. I thought the majority of that game they were feeling comfortable.”
The third quarter ultimately was the Thunder’s best defensive period. By far. San Antonio scored just 22 points, the only period the Spurs tallied less than 30 points, and went 8-for-22 in the frame.
Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard combined to score just three points on 1-for-10 shooting in the period. Parker, who was scoreless in the quarter, dished only two of his 12 assists.