Starting guard Thabo Sefolosha has long been considered the Thunder's best in-bound passer. Though Sefolosha is back from injury, it was James Harden who in-bounded the ball with 59.9 seconds remaining Friday night and OKC trailing 109-105 to the San Antonio Spurs.
Harden's lazy in-bound pass to Russell Westbrook was stolen by Danny Green at midcourt and converted into a layup that essentially sealed the victory for the Spurs, who went on to win 114-105 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I thought of that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of using Sefolosha to in-bound the ball. “I believe Thabo is one of the best at throwing that ball in-bounds. That's a tough thing to do, and it showed tonight. That was not a good pass by James.”
Recovering from a sore right foot, Sefolsoha played 14½ minutes Friday and had five points and two rebounds.
“I don't want to play him a lot of minutes right now,” Brooks said. “He's still coming back. We're still trying to integrate him slowly – 14 minutes, I'm trying to keep it right around there. Nothing's set, but that's just what I want to do with Thabo.”
LEONARD VS. DURANT
San Antonio rookie forward Kawhi Leonard drew the unenviable task of defending Kevin Durant.
When Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked about the degree of difficulty in such an assignment, Popovich said: “I don't care who guards Kevin Durant from what team. It's a big challenge. It doesn't matter who guards him. From what team, what country, it doesn't matter. It's a big challenge. Kevin is Kevin.”
Leonard defended Durant commendably. The two-time scoring champion had 25 points, but shot 8 for 19 from the field, shot 2 for 8 from 3-point range and committed five turnovers.
Leonard finished with 15 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Despite his youth, Leonard has shown maturity in handling tough assignments.
“He doesn't get down on himself because somebody scored on him. … If he's concerned about it, he tries to do it better, rather than feel badly about it or miss three plays because he's still crying about it,” Popovich said. “He's real unique about it in that regard for a young kid. … Every night is a challenge. This will be perhaps his biggest of the year.”
NO HOME COOK-IN'
Thunder reserve guard Daequan Cook said his right shoulder felt fine as he iced it down after scoring 11 points in 16 minutes in Thursday night's 103-90 victory at Denver.
However, Cook was scratched from the lineup against San Antonio due to shoulder soreness and is listed as day-to-day.
Harden's right shoulder was wrapped in heat at the beginning of each half. He took the wrap off as he walked to the scorer's table to check in.
Missing 27 games due to various injuries this season, San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili is still working on his conditioning and the Spurs don't feel he is ready to play back-to-back games.
With a game at Dallas on Saturday night, the Spurs chose to save Ginobili for that contest and rest him against the Thunder on Friday. San Antonio won anyway without Ginobili.
The Thunder hosts Portland at 8:30 p.m. Sunday in a game on ESPN, which begins a demanding stretch of five games Sunday to Sunday. After the Trail Blazers is a game at Utah on Tuesday, home against Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, home against Minnesota on Friday and home against Miami and its Big Three on Sunday.
The auction/raffle to benefit Serge Ibaka's native town of Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo raised $16,000 in funds for UNICEF to aid victims.
It included an auction and raffle of Thunder-signed items. San Antonio All-Star guard Tony Parker also donated a jersey for the auction. The jersey Ibaka wore in Friday's game went for $5,200. Those who purchased the item met with Ibaka after the game and had him sign it.
“The people in my home country need help, and I'm so happy that people here are willing to do this for them,” Ibaka said. “I'm thankful to the organization for the idea to help my home country.”
NOT HALF BAD
The Spurs led by as many as 27 in the second quarter, owned 65-48 advantage at halftime and shooting was the key.
San Antonio outshot the Thunder 57.8 percent (26 for 45) to 38.6 percent (17 for 44) from the field and 83.3 percent (5 for 6) to 36.4 percent (4 for 11) from 3-point range in the first two quarters.
The Spurs' margin at intermission would have been even larger had they not shot just 57.1 percent (8 for 14) from the free-throw line.
San Antonio wound up shooting 51.7 percent from the field for the game, and OKC shot 44.3 percent. The Spurs started out 7 for 8 from 3-point range and finished 9 for 19 (47.4 percent). The Thunder 36.0 percent (9 for 25) beyond the arc.
REID TO TULSA
The Thunder assigned forward Ryan Reid to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League. Reid has played seven games with OKC, averaging 1.6 points in 3.4 minutes. In two previous stints with the 66ers this year, Reid has played 16 games (all starts), averaging 11.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 32.4 minutes. He was in uniform Friday night as the 66ers hosted the Springfield Armor at the Tulsa Convention Center.
Popovich on trading Richard Jefferson for Stephen Jackson before Thursday's trade deadline “Well, I was for it.”