Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Spurs lost for the third time in the last four games, this time against the Thunder. The good news is, Stephen Jackson is back!
The game started in a very familiar way: Parker was dominating Westbrook and Ibaka was destroying the Spurs with jumpers. Tony was breaking down the defense with his dribble drives and finding the open man when help came. Westbook's only way of stopping him was to foul, which resulted in two quick calls that made Brooks pull his starting PG with 5:15 to go in the first quarter. Ibaka attacked off the pick and roll and finished the half making a scorching 7 of 8 shots, doing most of the damage from mid range. There were some playoff flashbacks, for sure, and they wouldn't be the only ones. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
In the second quarter, Pop threw together a lineup of De Colo - Anderson - Jackson - Bonner - Splitter that was surprisingly adequate. Splitter was converting well close to the hoop and passing off the high post. The ball was moving and De Colo was running the team well. The Thunder bench, on the other hand, just didn't look as scary without Harden to anchor it. Martin did what he does and scored very efficiently, but the Spurs subs kept it close going into the break, 53-48 despite OKC's ridiculous efficiency on jumpers.
The third quarter was as reminiscent of the playoff series as the first quarter was, but for different reasons. The refs started either allowing a lot of contact or calling soft fouls and that led to a physical and sloppy match, that clearly benefited the Thunder. Duncan started the half aggressively looking to score, but OKC found ways to respond quickly and took advantage of the Spurs' poor defensive rebounding to get eight offensive boards in the quarter alone. Midway through the period, the Spurs were already down by double digits and the lead just kept growing. Thinking about the SEGABABA in Denver, Pop pulled the starters and rode the bench the rest of the way.
There were some short Spurs runs thanks to the more energetic play of the reserves and the complacency of the Thunder, but it wasn't enough to put the outcome of the game in any serious jeopardy. A few shots that could have helped build momentum rattled out, and the Thunder came away with a comfortable 107-93 win.
- Jackson returned and looked good in limited minutes. He rebounded and shot well and generally looked OK on both sides of the ball. Having Jack back is really important for this team. Now let's get Kawhi and Manu healthy, too!
- The Spurs designated shooters, Green and Neal, were erratic all game long. Neal went 2-5 from three but 3-11 overall. Green went 2-5 overall but 1-4 from three and looked over matched at times against the much bigger Durant. Neal closed out late on two consecutive possessions against Martin in the second quarter. Not a good night for those guys.
- Anderson, Mills, Blair and Bonner played mostly in garbage time, but DeJuan continued his tradition of getting good numbers against the Thunder. This time it was seven points, six rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes.
- Diaw continues to look a little lost out there. I know I keep harping on this, but Pop should probably start him next to Duncan. It's just a better fit for him than the bench.
- Jumper, jumpers, jumpers, man. OKC finished the first half with this shot chart. That's a ridiculous number for mid-range shots. The Thunder missed those (10-32) in the first meet of the season against the Spurs and our guys won. They proved during the West Finals that they have the guys to convert from mid range (48%) and the Spurs will have to find a way to counter that. I'm not suggesting leaving the paint open but there needs to be a way to bother those shooters
Your Three Stars
3 - Nando De Colo (14 points, six assists on 6-9 shooting)
This feels a bit like cheating because Nando got most of his numbers in garbage time but De Colo keeps showing improvement. He got to the rim and was able to finish well, but his outside shot remains inconsistent. Still, De Colo had a great stretch in the second quarter and was always trying to make plays and spark a comeback. If Manu misses more games, Nando will fill in for him just fine for now.
2 - Tiago Splitter (10 points and 3 rebounds)
Splitter is finishing around the rim well and is showing some post moves and beautiful footwork on offense. He's also doing a great job of moving off the ball to try to offset the spacing issues his lack of range bring when he's playing next to Duncan. Another solid game for Chiago.
1 - Tony Parker-Tim Duncan (a combined 26 points, seven rebounds and eight assists)
The Big Two (until Manu comes back) tried their best to keep the game close. Parker was great in that first quarter and Duncan was his usual dependable self. When the game got out of hand, Pop pulled them and didn't send them back but even in under 30 minutes each they contributed a lot. It just wasn't enough this time.
It's hard to keep a positive attitude when the Spurs lose to the team that knocked them off the playoffs. This trend of losing against good teams (five of the seven losses were against team above .500) and beating on bad ones is far from ideal, but you have to keep in mind that the Spurs have had a tough, road-heavy schedule and have dealt with their fair share of injuries. Even so, they are still only two games away from first in the West. Now another tough game awaits and if they lose onTuesday in Denver, the Spurs could be 1-4 in their last five games. Again, don't panic! It will get better with Jackson and Leonard getting healthy and the schedule allowing for some practice time at home.
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All stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats