In a game that meant walking away with the top seed in the Western Conference, the Spurs came to play. Even without Tony Parker, San Antonio sent a message to the rest of the NBA saying “don’t you dare forget about us.”
The Spurs opened the game looking motivated, hitting their first five shots and jumping out to a 10-4 lead. But it went downhill quickly from there as the Thunder went on a 23-4 run. Even with a decent spurt to end the quarter, the Spurs were still down 32-22 after the first period.
The Thunder controlled the boards early on, leading the rebounding margin 15-4, including five offensive rebounds allowing multiple opportunities on the offensive end for Oklahoma City.
In the second quarter the two teams traded baskets until about halfway through when the Spurs hit three three-pointers on three consecutive trips down the floor, two from Danny Green and one from Kawhi Leonard. That brought the Spurs back within two, 42-40. That was just the start of a 24-4 run that gave the Spurs a 53-46 lead with 2:18 left to play in the half. The Spurs second quarter surge was punctuated by a sick breakaway from Kawhi Leonard, who dribbled behind his back around Kendrick Perkins then threw it down with his left hand. The Spurs hit their biggest lead of the first half at 57-46, before the Thunder scored four straight to close out the quarter. The Spurs led 57-50 at halftime after a much better defensive second quarter, holding the Thunder to only 18 points after giving up 32 in the first.
“No team ends up being a really good team without playing good D,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “We played very poor defense in the first quarter. It looked like a continuation of the Portland game. In the second quarter we held them to 18, played better individual D, took a little more pride in it, and the team D was better. It’s always about defense. If you don’t play good defense, you’re nothing in this league.”
The Thunder spent the third quarter slowly chipping away at the Spurs’ lead. Led by Russell Westbrook’s 13 points in the quarter, Oklahoma City was able to get within 1 at 71-70. All that work was for nothing though as the Spurs closed out the quarter on a 13-4 run, extending the lead to 9 and taking an 83-74 lead into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, things started unraveling for the Thunder. Capitalizing on a countless number of turnovers and mistakes, the Spurs were able to stretch the lead to 18 at 92-74, before Oklahoma City was forced to call a timeout with 8:55 left in the game. The closest the Thunder would get after that would be 11, as San Antonio closes out Oklahoma City in convincing fashion without their All-Star point guard, 105-93.
For those who thought the Spurs would give up the number one seed in the West to the Thunder without Parker in the lineup, they don’t get to say “I told you so” just yet. The Spurs are now up 2 whole games on Oklahoma City, with one more meeting between the two teams coming up on April 4th.