Dissecting Spurs’ Comeback against Thunder

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AT&T CENTER – With 9:28 left in the second quarter Friday evening, the San Antonio Spurs were faced with quite a challenge in front of them, as they were trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder 43-20.

The Spurs had two options at this point: a) Try to mount a 23-point comeback, or b) suffer their seventh loss of the season. Behind the scoring of six specific Spurs and effective team defense, the Spurs were able to step-up to the challenge as they tied the Thunder late in the third quarter and narrowly outscored them in the fourth quarter for the 104-101 victory.

So, what exactly did it take for San Antonio to go from down 23 in the second quarter to hitting the reset button at 78 all late in the third quarter? A mixture of team defense and some individual scoring plays.

Defensively, the Spurs brought forth more physicality and were more in sync on their help schemes, as they held the Thunder to 37 points from the 9:30 mark of the second quarter all the way to the 20 second mark of the third quarter. During that timeframe, the Spurs’ defense held the Thunder to 15-of-40 shooting (38% FG) from the floor, only three free throw attempts, and they forced the Thunder into four turnovers.

On the opposite end during that same timeframe, the Spurs used efficient offense to put up 58 points, shoot 51% from the floor, and San Antonio knocked down 10-of-16 three pointers (63% 3PT), while going a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line. The Spurs had the edge on the glass too, outrebounding Oklahoma City 23-13 and San Antonio assisted on 15 of their 19 made baskets during that stretch with only three turnovers.

Now that some of the numbers have been provided, we’ll focus in on the Spurs’ specific players who were responsible for those 58 points during that stretch of 9:30 in the second quarter to the 20 second mark of the third quarter. Made free throws have been excluded from the possession log.

LaMarcus Aldridge – Scored 16 of his 26 points during the comeback stretch.

Here’s a possession log of Aldridge’s made baskets during the comeback stretch (9:28 of 2Q to 0:20 of 3Q)

Possession 1) Aldridge’s first basket during the run came off a San Antonio offensive rebound. Aldridge was standing at the top of the arc, he was fed the ball, and with the defender closing out on him, he used a pump fake to dribble down the lane for the two-handed slam.

Possession 2) The Spurs used a 3/4 pick and roll with Kyle Anderson off the drag screen action.

Possession 3) The Spurs went back to the 3/4 pick and roll with Anderson.

Possession 4) Aldridge’s fourth made basket during this stretch came off a tip-in offensive rebound, after Patty Mills missed the layup.

Possession 5) Aldridge’s last made basket during this stretch came off a post-up over Steven Adams.

Pau Gasol – Scored 12 of his 14 points during the comeback stretch.

Possession 1) Gasol got into a quick rhythm by using a post-up to get by and score over Jerami Grant.

Possession 2) Gasol went to the trailing spot-up 3-pointer from the center of the arc next, since Adams was caught stepping in too far inside the paint.

Possession 3) With Adams once again dipping too far into the paint, Gasol used the trailing spot-up 3-pointer from the center of the arc.

Danny Green – Scored 12 of his 17 points during the comeback stretch.

Possession 1) Off a sideline out of bounds set, Patty Mills used drive and kick action to find Green open in the corner. Russell Westbrook helped off Green too much and stayed in the paint, which left Green open.

Possession 2) After blocking Paul George on the opposite end, Green was the recipient of an open spot-up 3-pointer on the break since the Thunder were guarding the Spurs 5-on-4.

Possession 3) Using the 3/5 dribble hand-off action, Kyle Anderson drew in the help defense of Alex Abrines which allowed Anderson to pass to Green for the open spot-up 3-pointer.

Possession 4) The Spurs tried to get Aldridge a post-up, but instead, they swung the ball around the arc. When Carmelo Anthony fell to the ground, the Spurs capitalized by finding Green wide open in the corner.

Davis Bertans – Scored all 9 of his points during the comeback stretch.

Possession 1) The Spurs tried to run a 2/5 pick and roll, but the play didn’t go anywhere. With George falling to the ground, the Spurs moved the ball around the arc and Bertans found himself open in the corner for the three.

Possession 2) In transition on a 5-on-3 fast break, Dejounte Murray found Bertans wide open in the corner for a three.

Possession 3) Manu Ginobili set a pin-down screen on Josh Huestis and with Adams guarding Bertans, both Thunder defenders didn’t communicate, which gave Bertans room to fire from three.

Kyle Anderson – Scored 6 of his 10 points during the comeback stretch.

Possession 1) A 2/5 pick and roll didn’t work between Green and Gasol. Green passed to Gasol just as Anderson cut by George. Gasol saw the cut and fed Anderson with the alley-oop layup.

Possession 2) Green drove in and kicked to Anderson, who used a pump fake to make George fly by him. Then, Anderson used a creative movement to score past Anthony with the layup.

Possession 3) Anderson ran a 3/5 pick and roll with Gasol, and after Anthony switched onto Anderson, he scored on Anthony with a layup.

Patty Mills – Scored 3 of his 8 points during the comeback stretch.

Possession 1: Mills and Aldridge ran a 1-4 pick and roll. With Aldridge screening Andre Roberson, it was up to Adams to step-up onto the Mills three, but he didn’t.

“It was a fine win,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich after the game. “The guys dug deep, pounded the rock.”

“The team showed a lot of heart, a lot character,” added Gasol after the game.

For a team missing two core players in Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, the Spurs could have easily just called it a night by the second quarter and allowed the Thunder to take the win. However, as Gasol mentioned, when down 23, the Spurs used patience and took the game possession by possession, slowly chipping away at the Thunder lead.

It might have taken close to 18 minutes for the Spurs comeback and tie the game, but, with time on their side, they used it efficiently on that Friday night to tie the game, and eventually, comeback for the full win.

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