This isn’t something that gets said often, but the San Antonio Spurs beat themselves in this one. Facing the same Oklahoma City Thunder team that beat them last week, a series of second half blunders appeared to shake the team into a funk they couldn’t get out of, getting outscored 57-41 in the half while giving up 26 points off 19 turnovers (many unforced) on the night despite otherwise playing relatively good defense, leading to a 107-102 loss heading into the All-Star Break.
Five Spurs scored in double figures, led by 20 from DeMar DeRozan. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had his second-best scoring night of the season with 33 points, after putting up a career high on the Spurs last week.
- The Spurs won’t officially welcome fans back to the AT&T Center until after the All-Star break, but for the first time this season they some tonight with Hometown Heroes Night, meant to honor over 1,000 first responders, medical workers, teachers and frontline service employees who have tirelessly worked through the pandemic over the last year and recent Snowpocalypse. As the daughter and sister of teachers, a salute to you all.
- I spent the first half of the first quarter dealing with internet issues (that’s life as a League Passer) and came in with the Spurs down 18-16 and the refs calling consecutive weak offensive fouls on each team. That seems like a pretty typical start to a Spurs game.
- Jakob Poeltl will never be safe when setting screens. With a minute left in the first quarter, he seemed to catch a break for a change when Luguentz Dort was called for a foul for barreling through a Poeltl screen. Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault used his Coach’s Challenge to keep Dort from receiving his second foul, and it was successful since Poeltl was still moving (although it’s arguable that Dort hooked his arm and forced the contact). The result was Poeltl’s second foul, and the Spurs ended the quarter down 27-24. He spent the rest of the night fighting foul trouble as he seemed to get called for another every time he set foot on the court.
- The refs had a rough final minute of the half. They missed a blatantly obvious defensive goal tend on what should have been an and-one for Luka Samanic (and of course Gregg Popovich finally wanted to to use his Coach’s Challenge for a change but in a situation you can’t: on a call that wasn’t made), then at the other end called a foul that clearly DeMar DeRozan didn’t like (he had a frustrating first half of his own with 2 turnovers and 4-11 shooting), earning a technical. Regardless, the Spurs still did what they do in the second quarter, outscoring the Thunder 37-23 for a 61-50 halftime lead.
- Now comes the rough start to the second half. After getting ahead by 14 with a Lonnie Walker three to open the third quarter, they allowed an 23-6 Thunder run, defined by an uncharacteristic rash of unforced turnovers (seven that led to 16 Thunder points, to be exact). However, the bench came in and righted the ship a bit with a 10-2 run, fueled by no two consecutive threes from Patty Mills, and the Spurs held on for the rest of the quarter for a, 84-81 lead.
- It felt like the Spurs did a better job of containing Gilgeous-Alexander in the first half, containing his drives to the rim and forcing him to pass back out for a relatively measly 13 points after his 42-point outing in the last meeting, and yet there he was: fueling that big third quarter from the Thunder and matching his entire first half output in that quarter alone with 13 points. He continued to be a thorn in their side the rest of the night.
- Samanic’s confidence is through the roof at this point. Even though he only made 1-5 threes on the night, he doesn’t hesitate to shoot them anymore and continues to play well on defense. He even got a little run at center in the second half, and while he doesn’t yet have the strength to play that position much, he’s a decent enough rim protector to help in a pinch. He finished the night with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and a block.
- Turnovers continued to plague the Spurs in the fourth quarter, and even when they did get shots off they were poor looks with no flow to the offense. Just like third quarter, the Spurs opened with a three from Samanic to get the Spurs lead back out to six before the offense completely broke down again, allowing a 14-2 run and spotting the Thunder a six-point lead of their own. The Spurs never led again. They are now 15-2 when leading by double digits this season, with both losses coming against the Thunder over the last eight days. Whatever kryptonite this squad has on the Spurs, at least they won’t face them again this season.
For the Thunder fans’ perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.
The Spurs will get five days off for the All-Star break before returning to the road to take on the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, March 10. Tip-off will be 7:30 PM CT, channel TBD.