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San Antonio vs Oklahoma City, Final Score: Spurs comeback falls short, Thunder prevail 98-97

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The Thunder came out strong in this game, and won at the end on a controversial non-call as Westbrook and Durant carried their team to a win. Aldridge and Leonard starred for the Spurs, but couldn't quite get over the hump as the Thunder evened the series 1-1

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder came out of the gate aggressively, with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant staking their team to a big lead, along with huge contributions from Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter, who contributed practically nothing in the first game. The Spurs were almost able to execute an incredible comeback at the end, but the final play started with an obvious illegal push from Andre Roberson, and ended with a Patty Mills three point miss and an incredible scramble for the ball as the clock ran out with the Spurs down 98-97.

Game Flow:

Steven Adams stole the opening tip from Tim Duncan, but it went out of Westbrook's reach for a turnover. Spurs ball! But the Thunder played better defense on the first possession than they did in the first game, and and Russell Westbrook scored the first points of the game on a free throw. In fact Westbrook scored the first five points for OKC, and the Spurs went 1-9, leading to a Pop timeout with the Silver and Black trailing 9-2. Serge Ibaka, who had been a nonfactor in Game 1, was having a huge impact.  Despite not being able to hit a barn with a haybale, the Spurs still were playing defense, and forced four early turnovers, keeping the Thunder from getting away. While everyone else on the Spurs was throwing up bricks, Tim was able to work his way into a layup, but Kevin Durant was able to hit a three point shot in transition to put the Thunder up 14-4 halfway through the first quarter.

Pop called a timeout and brought in Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Kyle Anderson, and David West to try and change the direction of the game. Aldridge remained out on the floor to anchor the unit. Mills quickly dribbled the ball off his foot, turning the ball over to Roberson.  Roberson missed his free throws, but the Spurs again turned over the ball on the next possession.  Westbrook, who had been uncharactistically passive in game 1, began to attack and before you knew it, the Thunder were up 17-6.  Aldridge finally scored on a post up against Ibaka, but the Thunder had an answer. Aldridge started to hit his shots late in the quarter, and the Spurs began to slowly eat into the lead. Manu Ginobili closed the quarter with three point shot and the Spurs were only down by 8, 29-21.

The first points of the second quarter were scored by Mills, who drew a charge on Dion Waiters on the return trip. And then Playoff Danny Green showed up and hit another triple [... and then turned icy again]. The Spurs were only down by two points with just over 10 minutes left in the second quarter. Then Patty made Kevin Durant turn over the ball with an amazing defensive play against a guy who's nearly a foot taller than him.

Boban Marjanovic entered the game with 9:30 left in the quarter, but he didn't look great against the quicker Thunder bigs. Still the Spurs tied up the game at 33 with a Leonard step back at 8:13 left. Steven Adams had a thunderous dunk to keep his team even. Leonard hit another jumper and the Spurs were ahead 39-37.  Aldridge found his range, but Ibaka hit a three and Adams dunked again on a Durant assist to keep the Thunder close.

Diaw came in with 3:11 left, and Parker finally scored on a drive to the basket. Westbrook continued to be aggressive and pushed the Thunder to a lead. Diaw scored on a little flip shot to bring the Spurs to within one point at 54-53.

Enes Kanter hit the last shot of the half to stake the Thunder to a 56-53 lead.

Green stole the ball from Ibaka on the Thunder's first possession of the second half, but couldn't convert.  Ibaka hit a three point shot on the return. Parker got free under the basket to answer, but the Thunder started to put some possessions together to stretch their lead to 8. Aldridge drew a foul on Ibaka to cut the lead to six.  But Westbrook came back with a three on a steal of a Duncan rebound. Westbrook used his shake and bake to stretch the Thunder lead to as high as 11 points.

The Spurs weren't done yet, and they cut the lead to 3 with shots from West, Mill, and Leonard at 1:46 in the quarter which led to a Billy Donovan timeout. Aldridge scored another basket, and the Spurs shut down the Thunder for the last minute and half.  The Thunder led 77-76 after three quarters.

Westbrook started the fourth quarter on the bench and wasn't happy about it. Durant scored the first 4 points for the Thunder and Kanter blocked David West on the other end.  Then Waiters shot an airball, straight into the hands of Kanter.  OKC was up by 7 with just over 2 minutes gone in the 4th, causing a quick timeout from an exasperated Popovich. The Spurs continued shoot poorly, until Green hit a three with 7:09 left, and then another one, and suddenly the deficit was just 3 points. I'm sorry I doubted you, Danny.

Westbrook drove the length of the floor and increased the Thunder lead to five. But Aldridge powered up a 5 foot shot while being hacked by Ibaka and hit the free throw to bring the Spurs to within two at 91-89. Unfortunately, Dion Waiters hit a three on the next possession to increase the lead to 5 with just over two minutes left.  Aldridge hit a jumper in the lane to bring the Spurs to within three with 1:27 left.  But after Westbrook missed a three, Kawhi tried to answer and missed. With just 42 ticks left, the Thunder were up 94-91 with the ball, and they called timeout.  Durant scored out of the timeout to bring the lead to 5.  Aldridge hit a triple (his second of the season!) with 25.8 seconds left.

With the lead at two, the Spurs fouled Westbrook (twice) to get the ball back, but he hit both of his shots to increase the lead to 4 with just 18.3 seconds left. Aldridge drew a foul on the inbounds play on a three point shot and hit all three shots to cut the lead to one with 13.5 seconds left in the game. On the inbounds, Waiters used the ball to push Ginobili out of the way, which was an obvious offensive foul. It wasn't called. It was a crazy scramble, and there could have been about 20 fouls called, but none were called.  The game ended with Popovich screaming at the refs and it was over.  Thunder win 98-97.

Observations:

  • Leon the Lightning Lion has a great series of rhyming mnemonics to remind people to go someplace safe when they hear thunder.  My favorite two are "Don't be a fool, get out of the pool", and "Use your brain, don't wait for rain."  Yeah, he's pretty lame.
  • Westbrook was really passive in game one, but tonight he played like a man on fire. His aggressiveness gave them the big lead in the first half, but led to some team dissension late in the game.
  • Enes Kanter, who looked like someone who didn't know how to play basketball in game one, made some really good plays under the basket, but still made some bad passes. His rebounding was important for the Thunder.
  • Kawhi Leonard didn't dominate the game in the first quarter. It's very notable and unusual when that happens.
  • The refs really let them play tonight. There was lots of contact under the basket that wasn't called. Tim Duncan, in particular, had a very difficult time with the physical play early in the game, and missed a lot of shots at point blank range.
  • The Spurs didn't shoot a free throw until 7:47 left in the half, when the Thunder had already shot 14.  This just shows how much more aggressive the Thunder were early in the game.
  • The Thunder outrebounded the Spurs 23-14 in the first half. Their 11 turnovers were the only reason the Spurs were able to keep the game close.
  • Ibaka looked like a different player tonight than he did on Saturday. His rotations were aggressive, and always on time. He did more help defense instead of playing one on one and getting beat.

Music Break:

Wow, this is just noise! These guys can't play at all! Oh, well, nothing to do but smash it up, because we can't be happy tonight.

Bonus track: This should have been the theme song for that superhero movie last month. It actually really fits:

Final Thoughts:

The teams get three days off while the series goes on a break until Friday night, when the Spurs travel to Oklahoma City for Game 3, which starts at 8:30 PM. Pop probably has something diabloical planned to keep his team sharp and in shape on their days off.  Billy Donovan is probably going to hire a Popsicle truck to drive around the Thunder practice facility to keep his players in shape. If you're in Austin for Game 3, check out my fanpost about watching the game in my back yard.

The series is now tied 1-1, and in order to advance, the Spurs need to win at least one game at OKC, which isn't going to be easy.  This is looking like it's going to be a long, tough series. The Thunder are energized, and they did what they wanted to do on their trip to San Antonio, seizing the home court advantage from the higher seeded Spurs.