Well, that was oddly compelling for a meaningless game 81 of a regular season in which both teams came into it locked into their playoff seed and with several notables sitting it out. Right about the time when it was, oh, 41-23 for the visiting Thunder with 8:37 remaining in the second quarter I'm guessing you were contemplating the wisdom of choosing to watch this on purpose. There's a million channels out there. There's Hulu. There's On Demand. You could've gone to the movies. ("Zootopia" was really good, by the way.) Heck, you could've watched one of your old Spurs games on the DVR. Perhaps Game 5 of the 2014 Finals. That always makes me happy.
But no, instead you watched this dumb game, and a third of the way in surely your rationalizations started to kick in. Yeah, the entire starting lineup was playing for the Spurs, but that didn't mean they actually cared. Plus, playing OKC without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combine for a usage percentage of like 143.59, had to have been disorienting too. It's like the Spurs were facing some completely new expansion team from some faraway mythical land like Emerald City instead of the proud Thunder juggernaut with the rich and storied franchise history. Okay, sure, entering the playoffs with a five-game losing streak isn't ideal per se, but what does that really mean when none of those games counted for beans and the Spurs never had #fullsquad for any of them, right?
All these thoughts were going through your head as you were watching the Spurs play congested and clanky on offense and surrendering bucket after bucket on the other end. Thunder randoms were making everything from outside, and on the rare occasions they did miss, Steven Adams or Enes Kanter would simply play volleyball around the rim until the ball trickled through. It was not a fun time, with doomsday feelings and muttered curses my companions on the cheap sunken couch of degenerative hip death. (Make me an offer for it in the comments, won't you?)
Anyway, as it turned out the Spurs woke up in the second half, the third quarter especially and came back to win, even though it took their first extra period of the season to get there. Boban Marjanovic played big minutes off the bench with Boris Diaw out and LaMarcus Aldridge sidelined by injury (more on that in a second) and contributed nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the second half and overtime to neutralize the Thunder's size advantage. Kawhi Leonard had 18 of his game-high 26 in the second half, including three big buckets in overtime, and Tony Parker was able to take some positive momentum into the playoffs with a solid 20-point outing.
The Spurs did not play very well overall to be sure. They were chilly from outside once again, they got crushed on the boards and managed all of 15 assists on 37 makes, which seems like what Westbrook gets in three quarters worth or work most nights. The home side won mainly because OKC's youngsters, unfamiliar with this bouncing orange orb, and taunted the happy fun ball on their way to 21 turnovers. They also had like six of the best eight players on the court, including the top two, so it's probably for the best to not scrutinize this too much.
Obviously the main story here is that Aldridge left the game under mysterious circumstances 2:55 into the third quarter, never to return. The announcers and beat writers weren't privy to what the issue was, but it was curious that none of the team's trainers or medical personnel went into the locker room with him, according to reports.
Afterward, Gregg Popovich insisted that Aldridge was fine.
Quick Popovich reaction: Asked about Aldridge's disappearance... #Spurs pic.twitter.com/nQa1vJtAcA— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) April 13, 2016
For what it's worth, both Parker and Leonard opined after the game that Aldridge indeed was having soreness issues involving his finger, almost assuredly the same one he dislocated at Golden State on Aug. 7. Now, I know that Pop likes to take the piss with reporters and that his number one priority is the well being of his player, but it doesn't take a whiz to figure out that the truth about Aldridge was going to leak out eventually. You'rein fantasy-land if you take the coach at his word here, especially so close to the playoffs, but no matter how P-O.'d he is by the timing of Aldridge's injury, the bathroom excuse just doesn't hold water. If the Spurs gotta go without Aldridge for the first round, it'll be harder, but they're still not hosed by any means. I suppose we should be happy that he didn't react to the question with a potty mouth but still I would've preferred he shake off his annoyance at the question and give an honest full stream of consciousness answer instead of us having to find out information in drips and drabs.
Is it weird that Kanter and Adams scare me more about the Thunder than their stars? As good as Westbrook and Durant (in that order) are, and Ibaka can be on occasion, it's their two centers who really cause match-up difficulties with the way they control the glass against the Spurs and most everyone else. The second-unit match-up especially, with the tandem of David West and Diaw against those dudes does not sound very appealing to me. If ever there was a playoff opponent to unleash the Boban on, it'd be these guys, right? I admit the idea of Westbrook charging full steam ahead against a desperately back-pedaling Marjanovic doesn't seem optimal, but Boban will have just as much a chance of stopping him --if not more-- than West would and he can do more damage around the rim.
But I'm the same guy who'd still prefer Jonathon Simmons over Kyle Anderson in the rotation and I wouldn't even let Kevin Martin into the arena without a ticket, so maybe don't take my basketball opinions too seriously.
Dion Waiters probably saw 17 points and four assists on the stat sheet and thought to himself that he had a great night.
The Spurs almost control their destiny in regards to whom they'd prefer to play in the first round. If Memphis loses at Golden State tomorrow (remember, the Dubs are going for 73) and San Antonio loses at Dallas, then they'll get the Grizzlies, without Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. If they beat Dallas on Wednesday or somehow the Grizzles pull a shocker on the road, then they'll face the Mavericks, with Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, etc.
Seems like a no-brainer, right?
40-1 at home is still pretty cool, to be honest. I just wish the "1" wasn't to the Warriors. I guess the good news is they won't have to win another 33 in a row at home against them. Just three would suffice.
Your Three Stars:
1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Boban Marjanovic
3. Tony Parker
Up Next: At Dallas Mavericks (42-39)
Leonard and Parker already revealed that they won't be making the trip. Expect Duncan and Aldridge to be out, too. Diaw will likely get a few minutes just to test his groin and Manu Ginobili may get a handful as well, just to stay loose, but we're gonna see A LOT of Martin, Simmons, Andre Miller and Matt Bonner out there, along with Marjanovic and Anderson. Dollars to doughnuts those six play the lion's share, with spot minutes for whomever else. The weather is absolutely Biblical in San Antonio at the moment, so they might not even fly into Dallas until tomorrow morning. I've got a 5 a.m. flight scheduled there myself, en route to New Orleans, and am growing concerned that's not going to work out. The eternal lament of every Spurs fan: "When am I gonna catch a break?"