So, I went to the Spurs/Thunder game last week, and I sort of half promised to write something about that. Unfortunately, the following week I had multiple papers due (I'm getting my "master's degree" or something like that apparently in my free time), and also I am really lazy. Like, really, really lazy (which is why I'm writing this at work, as a graduate assistant).
So come with me after the jump and you'll get (only a week late!) some thoughts on that game mixed with some thoughts on the team overall.
The Thunder game was pretty cool. As an OKCity dweller for going on 5 years now, it has been really interesting to watch the team move here and then grow on the city. Year 1, there was some initial excitement from general sports/basketball fans. Year 2 saw attendance grow some, but everything was still pretty cheap. Last year, I got bottom level tickets 8 rows up for about $60. This year it cost $50 to sit in the upperdeck close to the wall. Still worth every penny. Anyway, the city has really embraced the team. They are almost as big a part of day-to-day life as OU and OSU, I think. Prior to the Thunder relocating here, there was a smattering of fans from opposing teams: lots of Dallas fans (probably for no other reason than that is the geographically closest team), some Bulls fans (maybe 10 hours away), but mostly Hornets fans, because after Katrina OKC adopted them for awhile. The whole experience of living here, and then having a professional basketball team magically appear is pretty unique, I guess. It's tough to NOT be a Thunder fan while living here. The excitement for the team, especially during the playoffs last year, was absolutely contagious. Fortunately, I got my coodie shot when I was a kid, otherwise I would be reading and posting on the Thunder blog instead of here.
OK. Enough on the cities atmosphere and all that other stuff. Back to the game. Our offense looked like crap for most of the first half. I mean, it was really, really bad. Especially that Manu kid. I'm going to pick on him for a bit, and here's why: I play basketball. I know the fundamentals. I know what I am supposed to do, I know to make smart passes. I'm not very athletic (shocking), I'm certainly not very tall, and I'm also not very quick. Basically, what I'm getting at, is when people see me the person on the Spurs they are most likely to equivocate me to is Matt Bonner. The primary difference being my best assets are defense and rebounding. Anyway, in order to be on the court against a lot of the people I play against, I have to play smart- I can only take smart shots, I can't turn the ball over, and I can't gamble much on defense, lest I be burned and become rec league posterized.
Manu does everything opposite from me. And it drives me nuts. I absolutely hate it (most of the time) because it makes me clench my butt cheeks like an opera singer trying to hit a high C. In the first half, everything Manu did was wrong- he turned the ball over, took a couple ill advised shots, and gambled and lost a few times on D. This was a big part of why we trailed at half. No, Manu apologists, it was not ALL Manu's fault, but I'm blaming him because, well, he's the Antithesis.
Halftime- I'd like to think Pop spent the entire break yelling and screaming at everyone to get their act together. In reality, he probably just sat and stared at everyone, making eye contact with each, while Manu or someone else did most of the talking. That seems to be the way many of our huddles have been run starting back in the playoffs last year.
The Spurs got a break, so now you will too. You need more music to continue:
I'm sure you're getting tired of reading at this point, so I'll recap the second half pretty quick: We held them without a field goal for like all but 4 or 5 minutes of the third quarter, and finally got going on offense, led by none other than my hero MATT BONNER!!! Pop started him in the 3rd quarter, and played him most of the second half, and he rewarded Pop's faith by doing absolutely everything right- 7-7 from deep, made smart passes, and his DRIBBLE PENETRATION actually opened things up for some other people- yes, Matt Bonner morphed into something never before seen-a cross between himself and Lamar Odom. Bonner even played excellent defense when the Thunder went super small (they played Durant at the 5 for a bit), leaving Bonner matched up against James Harden on several occasions. Bonner did a good job staying in front of the backup combo guard turned power forward, forcing long, contested shots. In addition to Bonner, Tony played pretty excellent from start to finish. He's as quick as Westbrook and still a better overall player. I'm glad we've got him locked up. He IS one of the 5 best points in the league-period. Don't even try to argue with me, because I'll write my response in all caps and it will hurt your feelings.
So we came back and won the game. Awesome. Things we learned? Richard Jefferson is an adequate small ball center. We listened to the local sports radio after the game, and I would just like to leave you with a quote (paraphrase) from one of their commentators: "There is no shame in losing this game to the Spurs. Everyone in the national media likes to say they are too old, washed up, etc. But if you've watched them play at all this year, it's obvious they've got at least one last run in them. They are contenders, make no doubt about it."
Ok. That is it for the Thunder game. The following is a large chunk of a post I wrote this morning on 48minutesofhell that I would like your opinion on. It is basically just my general thoughts on the Spurs defense as of late.
We’re currently ranked 8th in the NBA in Bpg as a team, and are the only "contender" in the top 10 unless you think Chicago is a contender. Currently, we are a full block ahead of the Lakers, and the supposedly defensively stout Celtics are ranked 28th in that category. Even Orlando, with the block monster Dwight Howard, averages fewer blocks per game than we do.
Also interesting to note: in the category of blocks against, the lakers have their shots blocked almost as often as we do (half a block per game difference.)
We’re also ranked 3rd in the league in steals, averaging 9.3 a game. The Lakers average 8.2, and Boston only 7.9.
To me, the most important defensive statistic is points per shot. I’m OK with giving up more total PPG this season, because we’re playing faster. If you have more possessions, ultimately you’re going to have more points. We’re ranked 5th in the NBA in points per shot, at 1.17. The Lakers are at 1.14 and Dallas is tops in the league at 1.13. The league average is somewhere around 1.24, I think.
Basically, I think what I’m getting at is team defense will only improve, and we’re already one of the best in the NBA by most statistical measures. If nothing else, we’ve shown we can play our best defense when we need to this season. We held the Thunder to 12 points in the third quarter of that game, and I dont think they made a FG until past the midway point of the quarter. That doesnt happen to a team of shooters like the Thunder very often. The Lakers last year rarely, if ever, played their best on both ends for 48 minutes- they got stops when they needed to. I think for the most part, we’re seeing that same pattern with us this year. While this is not as palatable as "48 minutes of hell" for most of us, I would argue in the NBA today it’s just as good a recipe for winning championships.