Manu Ginobili didn't even suit up for the Spurs, and just-acquired Stephen Jackson didn't even show up at Chesapeake Arena.
And with 3½ minutes left in the first half of a game with all kinds of playoff implications, the Thunder trailed by 27 points Friday night.
Suddenly, the Western Conference seedings didn't seem so important anymore.
The Thunder had a new playoff assignment: avoid San Antonio. Avoid the Spurs at all cost.
Bring on the Grizzlies. Bring on the Lakers or the Clippers or a combined LA all-star team. Bring on the Heat or the Bulls. Bring on the Jordan Bulls.
Anything but a series against these surgeons dressed in black, who carved up the Thunder before holding on for a 114-105 victory
This was the kind of game that can plant doubt and confusion. Doubt that the Thunder could beat the Spurs in a seven-game series, even if Oklahoma City gets homecourt advantage.
“They've been around forever, and they still do it at a very high level,” Scotty Brooks said of the Spurs.
San Antone coach Gregg Popovich never has cared too much about the regular season.
The Thunder started the night four games ahead of the Spurs atop the Western Conference, so the lead would be either three or five, with two-thirds of the season behind us.
But after this whipping, after the Spurs led 63-36 in the second quarter and were shooting over 60 percent into the third quarter, who cares about homecourt advantage?
Hard to picture the Thunder with an advantage of any kind in a series with San Antonio.
Popovich said he's never worried much about playoff seeding. Over 15 years, his Spurs have won and lost when they were top-seeded, and won and lost when they didn't have homecourt advantage.
“It's more what kind of a rhythm you have going into the playoffs,” Pop said. How much trust teammates have built. How healthy they are.
Uh-oh, for the Thunder. We're still five weeks from the playoffs, so there's time for the Boomers to play their way out of the malaise that's afflicted them for two weeks.
But it will be hard to wipe away the memory of this beatdown. Hard to build faith and hope and trust if the Thunder finds itself in a Western Conference final against the Spurs.
“You can't get down … 27 points to a good basketball team and expect to come back,” Brooks said.
After a decent defensive start — Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins both were active early — the Thunder collapsed. Over a 15-minute stretch, the Spurs scored on 27 of 36 possessions.
It wasn't just old pros Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, though they were salty, Duncan with 16 points and 19 rebounds, Parker with 25 points and seven assists.
But the new-age Spurs slew the Thunder. DeJuan Blair had 22 points and 11 rebounds; Danny Green had 21 points and the game's biggest plays, baskets after twice the Thunder clawed all the way back to within two, plus a steal and dunk in the final minute with the Thunder down four.
“We started doubting ourself and doubting on what we do,” Brooks said of the first-half defensive meltdown. “We're one of the best defensive teams in the game. When teams shoot in the 50s and 60s, it surprises all of us.
“It wasn't scheme. It's always about effort with us. We did it (play hard) probably 30, 35 minutes tonight. That's not good enough.”
That's not close to good enough. Not against the Spurs.
So the Thunder has a new wish. Maybe someone else can take out San Antonio.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.