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The Spurs B Team doesn't have the juice to overcome Westbrook, Durant and... Kanter?

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The Spurs, who were missing Kawhi Leonard with an injury and resting the rest of their future Hall-of-Famers, succumbed in the second half to a hot Thunder team that relied heavily on their starters for most of the game.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With a cobbled-together starting lineup of Boban Marjanovic, Boris Diaw, Kyle Anderson, Danny Green and Patty Mills, the Spurs' B team was able to compete for most of the first half with the Thunder's starters, featuring a hyperactive Russell Westbrook, who then willed his team to a win against the Spurs by dominating in the second half. Kevin Durant contributed his usual points for the Thunder and Enes Kanter showed that he's become a key contributor on offense for the Thunder. In the final estimation, blame for this loss can be lain at the feet of Gregg Popovich, who decided to leave LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in San Antonio for rest, while Kawhi Leonard was out rehabilitating a bruised thigh muscle. The remaining Spurs players gave good effort in the game, but were overwhelmed by a much more talented Thunder who extended their winning streak to 7 games.

Game Flow:

The game started off with some promise for the good guys, as Boban Marjanovic and Durant traded baskets, and Ibaka hit a two.  Kyle Anderson got a wide open three-point look from the left side, and instead of dribbling into coverage like he usually does, he took and made the shot, leading to a 5-4 Spurs lead. Both teams traded baskets for few possessions, but then Boban got stuffed by Serge Ibaka on a dunk attempt, which really fired up the crowd. On the Spurs' next possession, Marjanovic got a some measure of revenge, violently stuffing the ball right into Ibaka and Steven Adams' front porch.

Unfortunately for the Spurs, that was pretty much the high point of the game for Boban. Durant answered with a deep three-point shot, and Russell Westbrook started to get hot from midrange, hitting shots off the dribble whenever he got a slower player matched up with him.  And when the defender tried to get up on Russ, he would easily drive right to the basket. It helped that the referees were calling the game pretty loose, and despite complaining about the lack of calls in his favor, he was able to use his strength to bully past and over defenders on multiple occasions.

Despite Westbrook's heroics, the Thunder were only able to build a seven-point lead with 4:15 left in the first, and when David West entered the game for Boban, the tide began to turn in favor of the Silver and Black. The Spurs finished out the quarter on a 15-6 run to take a 26-24 lead at the break. Jonathon Simmons did his part for the good guys, he missed a pair of free throws, but got back the points with an assist from Kyle Anderson who rebounded the second miss.

The second quarter started out with a West basket, and then after the teams traded turnovers and bad shots for a few possessions, Simmons had another thunderous dunk to take the Spurs to a 30-24 lead. Then it started to go bad for the Silver and Black.  Enes Kanter got hot, giving the Thunder a third scorer, and West went cold, and missed a series of easy layups that are usually easy money for him. Nevertheless, the Thunder weren't able to take advantage of the Spurs lack of efficiency, because whenever Billy Donovan rested Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder bench stunk up the court. Westbrook almost hit this amazing shot near the half, but it didn't count.

Cameron Payne was especially bad for the Thunder, with 0-5 shooting and 3 personal fouls in 11 minutes. The halftime score was 48-44 in favor of the Thunder, and it looked like the Spurs still had a shot at winning the game.

The less said about the third quarter, the better. The Thunder turned up the intensity on defense, and also started to hustle for every rebound. The Spurs had been able to contain the Thunder's fast break game in the first half, but in the second half they got steals and long rebounds which led to easy baskets and dunks for Westbrook, Ibaka and Kanter.  Boban played most of the quarter, which didn't work out well for the Spurs as he got outrun on the fast break by Adams and Kanter whenever OKC was able to get a turnover or a long rebound. The Thunder enjoyed a 83-63 lead at the end of the third quarter, having outscored the Spurs 35-19 in the period.

The Spurs recovered a bit in the final quarter, as Andre Miller and David West held up pretty well on offense. But despite a little five-point mini-run at the start of the quarter, the Spurs weren't able to close the gap, because Westbrook and Kanter kept scoring, and you can't make up a 20 point deficit by trading baskets.  Especially when the other team is hitting the three-pointer. The Spurs managed to outscore the Thunder in the fourth, but shaving one point off a 20 point deficit in 12 minutes won't win many games.

Observations:

  • The Thunder bench is bad. Really bad. Every bench player on the Thunder had a negative +/-, except for Foye, who was +3 in 22 minutes, despite OKC winning by 19. Even when the Thunder were up by 20 with 5 minutes left, Westbrook and Durant still had to be on the court to keep command of the lead.
  • The Spurs starters averaged 27.4 minutes, the Thunder starters averaged 31.8 minutes.
  • Serge Ibaka used to be the Thunder's third best player. Enes Kanter, who seemed to be a bad signing for the Thunder when they got him, has superseded Ibaka as their third leading scorer, and isn't quite the human turnstile on defense that he was when he entered the league. I think that Billy Donovan must be really pleased with what he's getting from the big Turk.
  • Boban Marjanovic had a decent start and a few nice baskets in garbage time. But he was awful for most of the middle part of the game. He simply has no chance when he gets caught on a quick and athletic guy like Westbrook on a switch. Not many big men do. But it would have been nice to have some of Duncan's defense tonight. The Thunder are a terrible matchup for a big man with Boban's skill set, but I do think that the big Serbian can be more than useful against some teams. I just don't think that any of those teams will play the Spurs in the playoffs this year. I'm beginning to lean toward the idea that he won't be part of the playoff rotation this year.
  • Andre Miller played well, and held up well against the whirlwind play of Westbrook.  I can't say the same about Kevin Martin, who didn't contribute much on offense and was a liability on defense when he was out there.
  • Sean Elliot took the night off, and we had former Spurs Assistant Coach Mike Brown subbing in with Bill Land on the Spurs TV broadcast. While I enjoyed his different take on the game, he just made me miss Sean.  And he uses weird terminology. Mike, it's called a clear path foul, not a breakaway.  This isn't bicycle racing.

Music Break:

I usually share something old with you guys, but I thought I'd let you hear this song I just heard today for the first time. It's causing a stir among Nirvana purists who believe that Sturgill Simpson has messed with Kurt Cobain's artistic vision by making some pretty serious changes to the source material.  But seeing how things turned out for Kurt, maybe we shouldn't necessarily be obligated to do things exactly the way he did.  I like this adaptation, but I can understand if you don't.



Final Words:

Well, so far this season, the Spurs had a perfect record in SEGABABAs (second game of back-to-backs for all you new guys), but now that's gone with the loss to the Thunder.  They also haven't lost two games in a row all year.  That streak is also in danger, as they will meet the injury-decimated Grizzlies in Memphis at 7:00 pm on Monday with most of their starting lineup still in San Antonio. Zach Randolph should be back, and Memphis almost beat the Spurs (with a lot of players resting) without Z-Bo. Kawhi probably won't be back on Monday, so it's not an automatic win for the Silver and Black.

Nevertheless, the Spurs record is now 61-12, and they are locked into the second seed in the Western Conference -- they can finish no lower than the two-seed, and barring some kind of injury/team-wide sickness, they will not be overtaking the top-overall sees from the Warriors. .The only suspense remaining is finding out who will end up in seventh out West, which could be any one of the four teams currently sitting between the sixth and ninth positions in the standings.