By the time it was over, the Spurs, already more disciplined than the Thunder, suddenly looked deeper.
“In order to win in this league, you need your bench to come through and they’ve come through many, many, many times,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “And they’re going to come through again. But we didn’t play well as a team. It wasn’t our second or first unit. It was our team.”
The starters helped the Thunder build a 10-point lead after the opening period. But that quickly dissipated and turned into a seven-point halftime deficit. Everything that the Thunder did right in the first quarter went wrong when the bench began the second.
“The guys that started the game really set a good tone and really were making it difficult for the Spurs to score,” Fisher said. “And as the game moved on, especially in that second quarter in particular, the game just became too easy for them. Their confidence got going. The crowd got into the game and it was tough to recover from there.”
San Antonio outscored the Thunder 35-18 in that second period, closing the quarter on a 26-8 run. Turnovers (19 on the night that led to 25 Spurs points), forced shots and slow defensive rotations doomed the Thunder. OKC missed 11 of its final 15 shots in the period.
The Thunder fought to get back into the game in the third quarter, closing within one with 2:55 left in the period. But the Spurs unleashed a 21-4 run over the next six minutes — the final three minutes coming against the Thunder’s reserves.
What’s been a sore spot all season showed itself against the best team in the conference, a Spurs team that figures to stand in the way of a return trip to the NBA Finals and one that might continue to run and hide with the home-court edge in its hands.
“We don’t have to try and become different people, or try and do what James (Harden) did for the team last season,” Fisher said of the second group. “We just have to be effective at who we are. And tonight we weren’t able to do that as well.”