Love it or leave it: Looking back at the Thunder's win over the Spurs

Some things from Monday's game can be used as barometers for future matchups, while others were one-night phenomena.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 18, 2012

— It was supposed to be a battle of Western Conference heavyweights.

Instead, it turned into just another Thunder thumping.

Monday night's matchup between the Thunder and San Antonio got out of hand in the second half, as the short-handed Spurs struggled to keep up with the hottest team in the league.

The eventual blowout left us unsure of what to believe about where exactly this Thunder team stands compared to its closest competition in the conference. Given the circumstances, much can be misconstrued when looking back on the Thunder's 107-93 win. But a handful of happenings from that game can be considered as good as counterfeit.

It's unlikely that the gap between the Thunder and Spurs is as wide as it appeared in the second half Monday. So here are a few take-aways from what turned into a tainted clash of conference titans, a cheat sheet of sorts to help you decode what we really learned and what we probably should just leave in the rearview mirror.

Leave it: The second half

There were some positives in the final 24 minutes and perhaps even a few valuable take-aways. But the problem is only the first eight minutes or so mattered. San Antonio was playing its seventh game in 10 days and was on the road for the fifth time in six games. Soon after the Spurs got down by 15, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich yanked Tony Parker and Tim Duncan for good, knowing his troops were scheduled to play in Denver 24 hours later. The game was only a formality from there.

Love it: Serge Ibaka's big night

We all remember Ibaka's huge Game 4 in the Western Conference Finals, and for a moment, Monday was reminiscent of that 11-for-11 shooting performance. But there's a reason for that. Ibaka has some of his best games against the Spurs — averaging 11.2 points and 9.2 rebounds for his career against San Antonio — because the Spurs make it a point to take away the Thunder's first and second options, which of course are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Ibaka generally has been the biggest beneficiary, but now he's grown to the point of being capable of making defenses pay.

Leave it: The runaway victory

As previously stated, the Spurs were short-handed. They were without Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, two of their best four players. That would be like the Spurs blowing out the Thunder without Ibaka and Durant. Stephen Jackson also was playing for the first time in 15 games. Therefore, that lead that got as large as 18 before ending in a 14-point victory should be taken with a grain of salt. Three of the Thunder's wins against the Spurs in last year's conference finals came by five, six and eight points. OKC won by 20 in Game 3 only when its back was against the wall. The Thunder is clicking right now and benefited from both the schedule and San Antonio being short-handed. The Spurs historically have made things tough on the Thunder.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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Thunder at Hawks

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37/HD 722, DirecTV 679, Dish 443, U-Verse 754/HD 1754).

Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM

Three things to know

* The Thunder has won 11 straight, an Oklahoma City era franchise record and an NBA best this season.

* Atlanta defeated the Thunder 104-95 in Oklahoma City on Nov. 4. It was one of only six times that the Thunder failed to score at least 100 points this season.

* Kevin Martin scored a game-high 28 points against the Hawks in the first meeting. Martin is averaging 16.1 points, third most on the Thunder.

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