The Spurs nearly pulled off an impressive victory coming out of their 9 day layoff, but fell at the last possible moment to the Thunder on a buzzer-beating three pointer 102-99. Missing multiple starters and several rotation players, the Spurs came into the game with a patchwork roster, and though there were several solid stretches of basketball, the lack of shared playing time and the absence of their usual closers proved to be too much in the end.
The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s career high 42 points to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists and capped their victory with a wide open Luguentz Dort three pointer from the right corner. Dejounte Murray paced the Spurs with 27 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals, while Patty Mills (15), Lonnie Walker IV (12), and LaMarcus Aldridge (11), were the only other Spurs to break into double digits.
- One of the big questions coming into the game was whether the Spurs would return from their extended layoff more like the Wizards, who struggled, or the Grizzlies, who were dominant. All in all, they probably split the difference. Considering how many of their best players were still out, though, that’s a pretty good outcome. With just 1 practice and 1 workout after 6 days of no basketball, just playing competitive basketball would have been as much as you could reasonably expect, but nearly stealing a win on the road in their first game back is a good sign.
- Dejounte was a force on both ends of the court. The Spurs were somehow both more aggressive and more composed with him on the floor. Gilgeous-Alexander rightfully deserves the headlines for his near 42 point performance, but there’s no question the Thunder would have run away with the game had Dejounte not brought so much energy and focus. Dejounte scored the Spurs first four buckets of the game and never really let up. He nearly helped close the game out, too, forcing a critical turnover and staying in the play for a much-needed contest on a Gilgeous-Alexander three point attempt on what should have been the Thunder’s last offensive possession. Oklahoma City’s runs were perfectly timed with Dejounte’s trips to the bench, and the Spurs’ runs synced up just as nicely with his returns.
- Luka Samanic got his first start of the season and it was an encouraging outing. His footwork looked good on defense, even when matched with quicker players. Luka isn’t especially quick from side to side, but stays in position with his body by keeping his balance and not over-reacting. On offense, he had a great early drive where he used his body to create enough space for an easy fade at the edge of the circle on the right side. He also ran himself into a silly turnover pushing off a defensive rebound in which he fumbled the ball away trying to get into a pick and roll, so it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but he looked like he belonged, and that’s a big step.
- Along with Dejounte and Luka, the other starters were Lonnie Walker IV, Trey Lyles and Jakob Poeltl. Aside from playing two 4s side by side, it was actually a pretty competitive lineup. The Thunder aren’t exactly top-tier competition, so take that with a grain of salt or two.
- For his part, Trey Lyles continued to show how much value he provides on the back half of the roster. It becomes particularly evident in mix and match lineups when he plays alongside groups that haven’t seen much run together. He can do so many things at an acceptable level that he pretty much always has a skill that’s important to the group he’s playing with. You don’t even notice he’s on the court for a little while, then all of a sudden he creates something out of nothing and its like found money.
- LaMarcus came off the bench for the 1st time since rookie year in 2007 in a should-have been-doomed 2 big lineup, but managed to make it work. Given the team’s current personnel constraints, there were a lot more of those twin tower alignments than they would probably prefer, but for the most part, they held up okay. The rest must have done LaMarcus good, too, because he managed to track a drive all the way from the arc to the rim and even poked the ball away before the shot attempt, something that has been a bit of a rarity for him. He hit a pair of 3s, didn’t drag the offense down into the post, and even dunked on his defender by rope-a-doping him off a bad entry then driving baseline for a two-handed dunk (barely). Unfortunately, they also tried the old backscreen for the LMA lob play, but LaMarcus couldn't convert the alley-oop.
- Gilgeous-Alexander set a new career high before the end of the 3rd quarter. He was a constant menace on both ends of the floor and the Spurs really didn’t have an answer for him. Dejounte probably did the best job of guarding him, but like everyone else who tried, kept getting switched off, giving SGA the opportunity to attack over and over again.
- The last 3 minutes were rough. First, it looked the Spurs had given the game away. The Thunder knocked down a three pointer to go up 97-90 and the Spurs didn’t have anyone back to receive the inbound pass. LaMarcus hustled back just in time to tip the pass back to Dejounte, but it was ugly. Then the Spurs flipped the switch, went on a Patty Mills and Lonnie fueled run and tied it up at 99. Dejounte put a great contest on an SGA pull up three and the Spurs grabbed the rebound and called timeout. With the ball and 10 seconds to go, it seemed certain that the worst case scenario was overtime. Nope. Patty uncharacteristically turned the ball over on a double dribble with 3 seconds to go and then inexplicably left his man on the final defensive play, leaving Dort open for a wide open three from the corner, which swished through the net just as the clock ticked down to 0.0. Yuck.
For the Thunder fan’s perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.
San Antonio next head home to face the Pelicans on Saturday night at 7 PM CT tipoff.