SAN ANTONIO — Derek Fisher decided to view Monday’s defeat not so much as a setback but a reminder, a harsh one, no doubt, but one that he and his Thunder teammates can tuck in their back pockets and pull out whenever the moment calls for it on this continued journey.
But in the moments immediately following the Thunder’s 105-93 loss at San Antonio, the wound was still fresh, causing nearly every player to sit half dressed in their game attire long after the final buzzer. They lingered at their respective lockers. Some stared blankly into their cellphones, others into space. All made it known in their own subtle way that they preferred to be left alone, with thoughts that in all likelihood centered on what had just transpired.
“I don’t mind the mood, to be honest,” Fisher said, his voice one of only a few that interrupted the uneasy silence that had pervaded the visitor’s locker room inside AT&T Center. “I think it’s clear what our goal is as a team. Sometimes you need to continue to feel how difficult it is to be the best. Sometimes nights like this remind you of how hard it is to be No. 1, how hard it is to win a championship.”
Left unsaid but made abundantly clear on the court was the reminder of how troublesome these Spurs still are and will continue to be in the event the two teams do indeed meet in a playoff series for the second consecutive season.
San Antonio, even without injured point guard Tony Parker, thoroughly outplayed the Thunder for the final three quarters, making a mockery of Oklahoma City’s pursuit of the top spot in the conference while snapping its five-game winning streak.
It was the Thunder’s sixth straight regular season defeat down in San Antonio. Oklahoma City’s last — and only — regular season win here came back in November 2009.
This latest loss dropped the Thunder two games behind the Spurs with 18 left to play, including a fourth and final meeting with San Antonio in OKC on April 4. Should the San Antonio finish ahead of the Thunder, the Spurs will again earn home-court advantage through the conference finals, meaning the Thunder would have to win a potential Game 7 on San Antonio’s court.
The good news is there’s plenty of time to play catch up.
The bad news is the Spurs showed Monday that they now own a clear cut advantage for which no amount of time can cure for the Thunder. Of all that went wrong, the most disturbing might have been the dominance of San Antonio’s second unit.
Once a strength against the Spurs, the Thunder’s bench became its downfall. Kevin Martin scored nine points on eight shots and didn’t have an assist or a rebound in 20 minutes. Fisher, Nick Collison and Reggie Jackson, meanwhile, scored seven points on 3-for-11 shooting.