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San Antonio at Oklahoma City, Final Score: Spurs fall to Thunder, 99-94

A horrific third quarter sunk the Spurs in OKC.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs dropped another winnable game as they failed to capitalize on a sizable first half lead, allowing the Thunder to seize control of the contest in the third quarter and hand the Silver and Black a 99-94 loss. San Antonio used a disruptive, if not entirely disciplined, defensive effort to build their lead but could not maintain control once the Thunder shooters heated up.

Keldon Johnson led the way for the Spurs with 22 points to go with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. Dejounte Murray and Derrick White both struggled on the night, combining to go 5 for 29 from the floor. Mike Muscala paced the Thunder with 20 points while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander nearly put up a triple double with 14 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds.

Observations

  • The Spurs held the Thunder scoreless in the first three and a half minutes of play, taking a 9-0 lead into the Thunder’s first timeout. That scoreless streak came to an end on the ATO, though, as the Thunder dialed up a backscreen for an alley-oop dunk for Darius Bazley and then scored again on their next possession, forcing the Spurs to take a timeout of their own after less than a minute of play. The Silver and Black reasserted themselves when play resumed, extending their lead and finishing the quarter up 28-14.
  • The Spurs’ began the game with little regard for the Thunder’s shooters, concentrating instead on cutting off penetration and contesting shots in the paint. Given that the Thunder entered the night as the 3rd worst three-point shooting team in the league, making just 30.3% of their attempts from deep so far this season, that makes sense. Despite lapses that left several Thunder players open from deep, that strategy paid off in the 1st quarter, as the Spurs came up with 4 steals and 4 blocks and the Thunder were unable to hit from beyond the arc. Late in the 2nd quarter, though, Mike Muscala knocked down three consecutive three-pointers, which broke whatever spell the Thunder shooters had been under. That loosened up the Spurs’ defense, which allowed the Thunder to start taking advantage of penetration and eventually work their way back to take the lead midway through the 3rd quarter.
  • Once the Spurs’ defense began to struggle, or perhaps more accurately once the Thunder offense got going, the energy swapped on the other end of the floor, too. The Spurs went cold from outside and couldn’t consistently find a path to the rim, settling instead for far too many contested floaters. Still, the Spurs did generate good quality looks, including several open threes, but much like the Thunder early in the contest, just couldn’t convert.
  • The Thunder closed the 3rd quarter up 10 but the Spurs slowly clawed their way back into the game, taking the lead at one point and cutting the Thunder lead to 3 in the last minute. But like too many games already this season, small mistakes on both ends of the floor, including giving up a wide open dunk, closed the door on another close loss.
  • Neither team shot well on the night, with the Thunder taking the dubious crown for worst performance from the field with a stone cold 37.2%. The Spurs, by comparison, were on a down right heater, knocking down a luke-warm 41.0% of their field goal attempts. On the upside, both teams’ defensive stats are going to look a lot better after this slug fest.
  • The Thunder dominated the Spurs in getting to the free throw line. While the sheer disparity is notable - the Thunder took 20 free throws to the Spurs’ 9 - that has a lot to do with how the Spurs play. They just don’t draw a lot of free throws and when their offense is struggling, that inability to get those easy points is a glaring issue.
  • Jakob Poeltl’s return can’t come soon enough. The Spurs’ defense is vulnerable without their Austrian anchor, a rather obvious point that Gilgeous-Alexander drove home as he worked his way to the rim over and over again in the 2nd half.
  • The Spurs fall to 3-7 on the season and remain in 12th place in the West.

For the Thunder fans’ perspective, please visit Welcome to Loud City.

Up next for the San Antonio Spurs is a trip back home to take on the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.