Game 15, at Oklahoma City: Thunder 94, Spurs 88 Record: 13-2 1st in Southwest, 1st in West Streak: L-1
I was hoping for the best, caught up a bit in the hysteria of an 11-game winning streak and all those blowouts, but expecting the worst. It was too much to ask, to step up in class so starkly from all the dregs of the league to a game at OKC, where the Thunder are undefeated in their arena. Yes, the Spurs have played some athletic wing defenders during the past dozen-minus-one games, and they've played against a couple of elite rim protectors, such as Anthony Davis of the NOPE. But until Wednesday night they haven't really dealt with the whole defensive package of quick, long-limbed athletic freaks who know what they're doing.
As J. Gomez showed in his post yesterday, the Spurs have little problem creating all manner of easy layups and wide open threes in their half court offense against most teams. All it takes is a couple of misdirection actions on the weak side, a clever screen or two, one pass, two passes at most and boom, easy points. The Thunder, however, are a different animal. Sure, they can be solved, and the Spurs had no problem generating open looks through most of the game, but it's one thing to create them and another to finish them off. The guys had a bad shooting night, particularly from three, and at times they weren't patient enough in looking for good shots. The ball stuck too much, especially with the starting unit, and Tony Parker did not have a game to remember.
Believe it or not, I think the Spurs played better in the second half than the first, where they managed to go into the break with a 46-43 lead. The shots they settled for, quick, contested fadeaway threes and ugly paint attempts against a waiting Serge Ibaka, were awful. They didn't look like the Spurs at all. There wasn't nearly enough ball movement or man movement. They all looked too nervous and anxious, in a hurry to get shots up. Even the defense, I thought, was misleading. Kevin Durant got plenty of good looks and shook Kawhi Leonard off of him with ease, but he still clinked a bunch of shots. Russel Westbrook, too was in a major funk, but I figured he'd be rusty after not playing in six days.
In the second half the ball movement was better and they looked less spazzy around the rim, but they just couldn't hit anything. The defense was better, much tighter on Durant, but Ibaka and Reggie Jackson killed them. Patty Mills was the goat of the night for me. He was burned to a crisp repeatedly by Jackson without even the need for a pick on most of those drives. Games like that might make Pop reconsider his decision to banish Cory Joseph to the end of the bench. I also didn't understand why Pop got away from his bench quartet of Ginobili-Belinelli-Diaw-Mills, when that foursome had been so effective.
An ugly game, but one the Spurs would quite likely win if they were the home side, with their role players shooting well. It's too hard to win on the road with the top four perimeter guys shooting 2-of-17 from three and earning just 14 free throw attempts. What I'll take away from the game is theway the defense held down Durant and Westbrook, and I'll shrug off the fact the fellas got Ibaka'd. The rematch will be December 21st, after the fellas come off a road trip featuring games against the Clippers and Warriors. They should be far better prepared for a top foe then.
Standard Pop Quote:
"Reggie Jackson kicked our [expletive] and we didn't shoot the ball very well that's for sure. I thought a pretty good percentage of our (3s) were hurried or frazzled. I didn't like our shot selection."
By The Numbers:
18,203: The attendance at
Cheapskate Chesepeake Energy Arena
5-of-8: Three pointers made and attempted, combined by Patty Mills and Boris Diaw
3-of-5: Three pointers made and attempted, by Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb
3-of-29: Three pointers made and attempted, by everyone else in the game.
3: Free throw attempts by Kevin Durant, all late in the fourth quarter. He is averaging 12.5 attempts per game this year.
1:13: How long it took Derek Fisher to commit four fouls in the second quarter.
+8: Matt Bonner in 1:54 of playing time. Clearly, he should've played more.
39: How many shots it took Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to score 30 points.
1: How many days the Thunder have held the NBA Regular Season Championship Belt
Sequence of the Game:
After Belinelli hit a long two to cut the deficit to three points, 79-76 with 6:46 to go, neither team scored for 2:33, with the Spurs missing six shots (Splitter layup blocked by Ibaka, a Belinelli three, a Parker layup, a Leonard layup, a Parker fadeaway and a Green jumper) and also turning it over twice (Green and Duncan) in that stretch before Ibaka finally tipped one in to push OKC's lead to five. The Spurs never got closer than four the rest of the way.
1) Come on, Express News
Okay, so it might seem like a dumb thing, but as a former journalist, I was offended by this and wanted to get it off my chest. After Monday's win over the NOPE, Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express News interviewed Ginobili (skip to the 3:15 mark) informing him that in the 2010-11 season, when the Spurs also started 13-1, they lost their next game at Orlando. He clearly says Orlando because Manu immediately references Dwight Howard afterward and asks if that loss was the one where Howard beat them with an alley-oop at the buzzer.
Monroe replies that no, it wasn't. And Ginobili nods that that makes sense, replying, "That game feels like two decades ago." Well, it should, since it came in the 2007 season (and I distinctly remember Sean Elliott crossing the game off as a win on a graphic of the team's schedule for the month during the third quarter when they led by like 10 points. Elliott was decidedly more subdued for a month after that, no doubt having received a tongue-lashing by Pop).
Anyway, there's a reason Ginobili didn't remember the team's loss at Orlando to drop them to 13-2 in 2010... because it never happened. The Spurs did get thumped down there on Dec. 23, which dropped their record to 25-4, but the second loss of that season came against the Mavericks at home, which Monroe wrote about in his preview piece in Wednesday's paper once he realized he gave Manu some shinfo.
Here's the iffy part: In the story, Monroe uses Ginobili's "it feels like two decades ago," line, which was EXPLICITLY about the Howard alley-oop game in 2007, and attributes it to that 2010 loss to Dallas. He then sounds incredulous that Ginobili wouldn't remember a game in which he suffered a bloody nose courtesy of an elbow by Dirk Nowitzki.
Sorry, but this is just gross to me. One basic research mistake, which we all make in the writing biz, being covered up instead of owned, then topped off by misusing Ginobili's quotes from that Dallas game story to make it sound like the whole article was one tight piece.
Come on, guys. You're better than this.
2) What's the idea, Jason Kidd
I know lots of people found this funny, and I'm sorry, maybe I'm just in a rotten mood, but I sure didn't. Kidd BLATANTLY cheated the game, creating a loophole to give his team an extra time out by spilling his soda on the court. I mean, watch the video. It's so ridiculous. The acting is community-theatre-worthy. It's so obviously staged and premeditated and you can clearly see him telling Tyshawn Taylor to "hit me," i.e. crash into me so I can spill my drink. You even see assistant Lawrence Frank sitting on the bench incredulous, with a look on his face that screams to the world, "How am I working for this clown?"
The inclination around the blogosphere is to give the rookie coach a break since his team is struggling and he's in dire straights in this high-profile, high-pressure job. I say cheating is cheating and he shouldn't get a break just because he's an ex-player headed for the Hall of Fame. I hope the NBA fines the hell out of him because what he did is a million times worse than Pop sending guys home during a road trip. The nerve of Kidd to deny that he did it on purpose afterward ... I mean, that takes some gall.
Tweets of the Night:
A part of my soul dies every time Ibaka hits a mid-range jumper.— Jesus Gomez (@JejeGomez_PtR) November 28, 2013
This Spurs start is like those Japanimation shows where the hero holds back, gets in trouble, starts glowing and sends in Boris Diaw.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) November 28, 2013
Tony misses another free throw, and Boris shoves him in the butt.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 28, 2013
Just missed 66% of shots instead. RT @jortle: Spurs did not commit a single turnover in the 1st quarter.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 28, 2013
Boggles my mind that anyone, let alone a top-flight team, has a spot in the rotation for Fish at this stage.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) November 28, 2013
I mean, would you? RT @projectspurs: Tim isn't even bothering to defend Perkins on pick-and-rolls.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) November 28, 2013
Tiny little pink flag with 80 percent of the RS left: The Spurs have played two good teams, lost to both.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) November 28, 2013
The Spurs are on pace for 71 wins, just one win fewer than the 95-96 Bulls. The season is over.— Project Spurs (@projectspurs) November 28, 2013
Your Three Stars (such as they were):
3. Tim Duncan (18 pts): The 5-of-14 shooting line isn't particularly encouraging or impressive, but I thought he was tough around the basket on both ends of the floor, had some good moves around the rim and contested numerous shots from Ibaka and Westbrook. Still looked too rigid and mechanical at times, and doesn't look nearly as athletic or explosive as last year, but he's showing flashes of fluidity.
2. Manu Ginobili (17 pts): Didn't do much in the first half but fought hard in the second when the rest of his mates couldn't muster anything on offense. Fearlessly took it to the hole time and again, with good results. The three ball betrayed him but the whole squad looked shell-shocked all night by the dramatic difference in quickness, length and athleticism the Thunder present compared to the scrubs the Spurs have been feasting on.
1. Kawhi Leonard (17 pts): The 6-of-18 shooting line (1-of-5 from deep) doesn't tell nearly the whole story here. Leonard scored 13 of his 14 points in the first half and if not for his efforts the Spurs would've been blown out of the gym early. Kahwi created numerous opportunities for himself with four steals, led the team with 10 boards and generally did a really good job on Durant, limiting him to 24 points on 23 shots, with just three free throw attempts and six turnovers.
Next Up: @Orlando Magic (6-9), Friday, Nov. 29: The Madge have been struggling, but they've won their past two, including an impressive 109-92 road thumping of the Hawks. With Tobias Harris out for the season with a severe ankle injury, Head Coach Jacque Vaughn finally wisened up and benched the fairly useless Maurice Harkless and inserted rookie Victor Oladipo into the starting lineup alongside the resurgent Arron Afflalo. That gives them two menacing, athletic wings to go with stud big man Nikola Vucevic. On top of that, if youngster reserve Andrew Nicholson also goes off, then Orlando becomes a handful. As some of you know I irrationally love this funky outfit and they're probably going to be my favorite opponent the Spurs play all year. I'd have much preferred our second loss of he season to come to them than OKC, but since that didn't happen, I'm afraid the Magic will have to pay.