Coming into the game on a seven-game win streak that included wins over the #1 and #2 seeds in the West, a tough Mavericks team, and this very Oklahoma City Thunder team, the Spurs were always favorites. In the first game of this most recent streak (but really part of the larger 21 game narrative going back to the RRT), the Spurs dismantled Russell Westbrook’s erstwhile MVP campaign and the shell of the non-Durant, non-Ibaka Thunder to the tune of 39 points!
Kawhi Leonard--coming off what was surely one of the best games of his career--and the Spurs wasted no time putting this game to rest for their 8th in a row.
On the first defensive play of the game, Kawhi set the tone by stripping Enes Kanter twice under the basket before the ball fell out of bounds (a pity because he really needed more boxscore stuffers). Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan accounted for the Spurs first 11 points, two of them coming on a sweet 5-to-3 alley oop.
Though that slam only put the Spurs up 9-5, it was never a contest again. The ensuing 20-5 run to close the quarter resulted in a 19-point Spurs lead and a new franchise low for the Thunder. When Kawhi checked out, he had 12 of the Spurs 29 points (to go along with 2 steals, 1 assist, and 1 rebound ) in 10 minutes…Oklahoma City had 10.
The Thunder showed some signs of life in second quarter, with an 11-0 run predicated on active defense from OKC and (moreso) sloppy offense from the Spurs. Sadly, the run was also predicated on Marco Belinelli‘s turnovers and poor defense. It will be interesting to see how big of a role he and Patty have during the playoff run. Either can be a hot shooter, but they each come with their drawbacks.
Those silly turnovers were a blight on an otherwise infallible half for the Spurs, and made this as "close" as it was. And saying that it was "close" when it never got closer than a 14 point lead after the eight-minute mark seems like a stretch.
Kawhi Leonard eventually halted the run with one of his four three-pointers, and peace and order was restored to the world. Or as much peace and order as man who reeks utter chaos on opposing teams can provide. He finished the half with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting (3-for-3 from deep) in 14 minutes. Cory Joseph hit a buzzer beater that seemed like the icing on an already opulent cake (one that already featured about six layers of icing, 3 of which were nutella.)
Cory Joseph and Patty Mills handled the point guard duties in the second half as it was announced that Tony Parker would miss at least the remainder of the game with soreness in his right Achilles. The Spurs were no worse for tonight, extending their 22 point halftime lead to 88-57 after 3 quarters.
The final quarter saw Belinelli, Mills, Jeff Ayres, and Reggie Williams get some valuable minutes in shepherding out the win through what felt like 18 minutes of garbage time. The 25-point win doesn't even remotely capture how one-sided this game was.
Kawhi finished his night with 26 points, 3 steals, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 block. With clean-up minutes, four other Spurs eventually joined him in double digits (Baynes, Mills, Belinelli, and Duncan), though he was the best player on the court by miles.
If Parker doesn't play against the Rockets, Joseph deserves the start on Wednesday. Though Mills ultimately garbage-timed his way to more points and minutes, CoJo ran the offense well, played his usual tenacious defense, and again looked like the Spurs 3rd best rebounder (after Duncan and Leonard).
- Kawhi's last 48 game minutes (over 2 games): 52 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 10 steals.
- His last three 1st quarters: 15, 11, and 12 points.
- The Spurs eight game winning streak is the longest active streak in the NBA. They have won those by an average of 19.4 points!
- Spurs have held at least a 20 point lead in 9 of last 11 games (13 of last 21). Seven of those 11 were 25+ point leads.
- The minute distribution was about as good as you can ask for on a FIGABABA. No player had more than 26 minutes in what equated to effectively a high-intensity scrimmage.
- In a game where the "Big 3" became the all-time leader in games played by a trio, it was clear that this team now belongs to Kawhi.
The Spurs take on the Houston Rockets at home in a SEGABABA, before heading across the state to play them in Houston on Friday. These two games will almost certainly determine the Western Conference playoff seedings.