Sunday night started with the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder battling for the number one seed in the Western conference. By the time fourth quarter began, the game looked like a practice session for one team, and a resting period for another as the Thunder defeated the Spurs 108-96 in Oklahoma City as the Thunder became the first team to sweep a set of back-to-back-to-backs.
Though Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 21 points, James Harden was the biggest difference maker in the game as he fueled a 9-0 run in the first three minutes of the second quarter to push the Thunder’s lead into double-digits. The Thunder would never trail again.
At the beginning of the first quarter, Gary Neal had seven early points for the Spurs, but the Thunder made a charge to end the first quarter leading 24-22. Tiago Splitter and Harden both had big roles off of the bench with six points each.
The Thunder’s 9-0 run to start the second quarter led them to a 54-48 halftime lead as the Spurs had early turnovers which were converted into easy points for the Thunder. The Thunder outscored San Antonio 30-26 in the second quarter. Though the Spurs shot 50% from behind the arc, the Thunder did an excellent job on defense in holding the Spurs to just four three point attempts in the first half.
The Spurs got the Thunder’s lead down to three points behind a three by Richard Jefferson, but The Thunder’s 37-point third quarter to the Spurs’ 21 point third was too much as the team trailed 91-69 going into the fourth quarter. It didn’t seem like a back-to-back-to-back game for the Thunder’s young legs.
“They played very well and kicked our butts in the third quarter,” said San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after the game.
Both Tony Parker and DeJuan Blair left midway through the third quarter with minor injuries. Though neither returned in the game, their injuries aren’t expected to be major issues.
The white flag seemed to have been thrown in the fourth quarter as only Neal saw floor time as a starter. The young guys showed defense in holding the Thunder’s second unit to 17 points in the fourth, and they also chipped in 27 points on offense, however the margin was just too much for the group of James Anderson, Kawhi Leonard, Ike Diogu, and Danny Green to comeback.
With the loss, the Spurs stay winless on the road (0-3) and 6-3 overall. The team will try to earn it’s first road win of the season as they travel to play in Milwaukee on Tuesday where they’ll face the new look Bucks led by Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, and Stephen Jackson.
Analyzing the Loss
- Don’t look too much into this loss as the Spurs obviously didn’t have their legs on the second night of a back-to-back as they only connected on 35 of their 84 shots (42%). The Thunder didn’t look tired as they shot 51% in the game. Early turnover by the Spurs in the second and third quarter also added the Thunder’s big win.
- One player to keep an eye on is point guard Tony Parker. Parker only had four points on 1-of-8 shooting in 25 minutes, but the cause for concern is Parker’s shot selection. Parker isn’t driving to the basket nearly as much as he has been in past seasons. Credit Russell Westbrook guarding him and Parker also having to guard Westbrook. But nine game’s into the season, “TP” isn’t “TP.”
- Richard Jefferson’s consistency this season is a major plus for the Spurs as he scored 13 points and shot 3-of-4 from behind the arc in 19 minutes.
- Gary Neal’s production continues to increase as he led the team with 18 points and shot 2-of-3 from the three-point line in a season high 28 minutes. The Spurs will need consistent production from Neal on offense with Ginobili out and Parker’s sign of fatigue.
- With his new role as the team’s sixth man, Green came off of the bench to finish with six points on 2-of-7 shooting. He had a sluggish first half, so Anderson came in off the bench to be the first wing player off the bench in the third quarter. But Anderson didn’t produce much and the opposition usually scored on him.
Rookie Leonard recorded the first double-double of his career with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while also adding two assists, and two steals in 34 minutes of action. Leonard also spent some extended time defending Durant. After the game, coach Popovich said he wanted Leonard to get some experience defending one of the league’s scoring machines. Pop said he wasn’t going to pull Leonard out; he wanted him to gain the experience.