The San Antonio Spurs executed down the stretch of a closely contested matchup, defeating the Thunder, 112-102, and heading back to the AT&T Center with a winning record after a grueling five-game Western Conference road trip.
Lonnie Walker IV led the Silver and Black with a game-high 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting while chipping in three boards, two assists, and a block. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced Oklahoma City with 20 points and nine rebounds.
- LaMarcus Aldridge only needed five points to overtake Hall of Famer John Stockton for 47th place on the all-time scoring list, and he exceeded that mark in the first quarter alone. The fifteen-year veteran is now 280 points from becoming the 47th player in NBA history to score 20,000 points. Aldridge will join George Gervin, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Pau Gasol, and Dominique Wilkins as just the sixth player to hit that career hallmark in franchise history.
- Jakob Poeltl was on a seven-game block-less dry spell when the night started, the longest stretch of his five-year NBA career. And while the Austrian center hasn’t looked like himself this season, it was nice to see him swat two shots in a Spurs victory. Hopefully, this a turning point for the recent contract extension signee.
- Lonnie Walker IV tallied more than 20 points in consecutive games for the first time in his NBA career. The third-year swingman showed off his three-level scoring potential, attacking the rim, getting to the line, pulling up from mid-range, and knocking down shots beyond the arc. The high-flying two-guarded ended the night with a game-high 24 points, and Spurs fans won’t complain if that becomes the new norm.
- Patty Mills moved up to 90th place in three-pointers made in NBA history, tying former All-Star Mo Williams on a beautiful trifecta that found nothing but the bottom of the net midway through the third quarter. His 3-of-10 line from downtown will knock him down a few pegs on the efficiency leaderboard, though that probably won’t bother Patty after San Antonio came away with the dub.
- Rudy Gay almost always seems to shoot better with a defender draped, and it’s honestly one of the most frustrating things to witness when tuning into a Spurs game. I wondered whether I was going insane, so I did some digging on the official NBA website at the half, and sure enough, the statistics back up my theory. As wacky as it may sound, the combo-forward shoots more than ten percentage points worse on wide-open (defender further than ten feet) shots than tightly contested (defender within two feet) attempts.
- Popovich and company have thrived in the second quarter, outscoring their opponent by an average of 3.5 points (6th in the NBA). They continued that trend, outperforming the Thunder and opening up an eight-point cushion heading into halftime. Thankfully, San Antonio didn’t follow their tendency to do a complete 180 in the third quarter. The Spurs own the third-worst third-quarter margin in the league (-4.0 points), and Oklahoma City only trimmed the deficit to seven points by the start of the final frame.
- Dejounte Murray seemed to have turned a corner after finishing around the rim at an elite rate early this season. However, old demons have haunted the fourth-year floor general over his last few outings, and he had no success in the paint versus the Thunder. He looked timid to attack the interior, and by the time he did, his frustrations boiled over, drawing a technical foul from the referees. The Washington alum recovered on the ensuing offensive possession but never legitimately built any lasting momentum.
- Aleksej Pokusevski has a rare combination of fluidity and skill someone of his stature, and those were just a few of the many reasons I had him rated as the ninth-best prospect on my 2020 Big Board. I also said the 19-year-old was a few years away from being ready for the NBA, though Oklahoma City seemingly believes throwing him into the fire is the best approach for his developmental track. And while his flashes of shooting and playmaking potential pop on tape, that 195-pound frame stands out like a sore thumb for the inexperienced seven-footer.
- The Thunder led the NBA in three-pointers attempted per game, and San Antonio was allowing the highest three-point percentage in the league coming into this contest. It felt like the perfect storm for Oklahoma City to have an outburst from beyond the arc, but the Spurs locked down the perimeter from end to end. Their opponent only got up 26 outside shots and knocked down just seven of them. This showing was an encouraging step in the right direction for a previously flimsy three-point defense.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the grooviest players in the league, and his intelligent use of angles and his god-given length are a pleasure to watch. While the third-year guard racked up points with an array of arhythmic, off-balance, and wrong-footed finishes, the Spurs put the clamps on him in the second half. A small part of me wishes he had a louder outing at San Antonio’s expense, but nothing makes me happier than a Silver and Black win.
- Dan Weiss took some time to mention that tonight was just the 30th NBA appearance for Keldon Johnson, which is remarkable considering the confidence and poise that emanates from the second-year wing on a nightly basis. Keldon is far from perfect, and he made rookie mistakes on both ends, though he was nearly impossible to stop once he got going downhill. His 18 points and seven rebounds were both second-highest on the team, and his tireless motor remains one of the most entertaining aspects of this Spurs team.
For the Thunder fan’s perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.
The San Antonio Spurs will finally return to the AT&T Center after a five-game road-trip as they play host to the interstate rival Houston Rockets on Thursday night.