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Turnovers haunt Spurs in loss to Thunder

Turnovers haunt the Spurs as they failed to hold onto a double digit third quarter lead, resulting in a loss to close out the first half of the season.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Two days after blowing out the upstart Knicks, the Spurs failed to maintain their momentum against Oklahoma City, resulting in a 107-102 loss to close out the first half of the season. The result might be disappointing given the large lead that San Antonio had, but the game shouldn’t be a cause for worry given the team’s current depleted state.

Right from tip-off, the Spurs played sloppy defense, giving Oklahoma City some wide-open looks from three. San Antonio’s defensive lapses seemed to be a product of miscommunication rather than a lack of effort, which was an issue that popped up later in the game as well. Thankfully, the team had no such problems on the offensive end. The high pick and roll involving Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl was especially effective, generating good mid-range looks for the guard while opening up passing lanes for other teammates.

After the opening minutes of the game, the Spurs began to find their footing on both sides of the court, leading to a 10-2 run to start the second quarter. San Antonio moved the ball efficiently and some well-timed cuts helped generate easy looks at the basket. Even when the offense stagnated somewhat, Murray continued to hit his mid-ranger jumper which fueled the Spurs’ run, allowing the team to outscore the Thunder 37-23 in the second and enter halftime up 11.

Unfortunately, the second half proved to be an entirely different story. San Antonio committed six turnovers in as many minutes to begin the third, with most of those being the absolute worst kind: self-inflicted and leading directly to opponent scores. The Spurs’ offensive struggles permeated into their own end too, as they allowed the Thunder to generate open shots from three while also allowing easy baskets in transition. Then just like that, San Antonio’s large lead had turned into a three point advantage for OKC. Fortunately, Patty Mills was able to keep the good guys in the game with some hot shooting, as he hit back-to-back threes with the second being a deep heat check in the open court. The Spurs began feeding the hot hand by setting multiple screens for Mills in order to get him open looks, but the Thunder did a good job of defending the three point line and prevented him from hitting anymore.

Even with Mills cooling off a bit, San Antonio was able to score on the back of a few impressive plays down low from Trey Lyles. DeMar DeRozan started knocking down shots too, as he always does with the game on the line. However, the Spurs were unable to maintain that same momentum defensively. Oklahoma City’s ball movement caused confusion and made San Antonio scramble endlessly in their own zone, helping create open looks from three which they knocked down with ease. Oftentimes, multiple Spurs defenders would collapse onto one Thunder player in the paint, allowing them to kick the ball out to an open shooter. The good guys tried to recover by giving the ball to DeRozan with time winding down, but it was too little too late.

Dropping a winnable game is no doubt disappointing, but we shouldn’t be too concerned about the outcome. For starters, the team is still missing LaMarcus Aldridge, Derrick White, Devin Vassell and Rudy Gay, while Keldon Johnson was only playing in his second game after returning from health and safety protocols. This definitely caused San Antonio to play more sloppily than usual, which explains some of the miscues they had on defense. Now, it’s unfair to use these as excuses when most teams have gone through similar issues, but I’m definitely not concerned that the lack of chemistry will continue to be a problem when everyone is healthy again.

Game notes

  • The Spurs had 19 total turnovers in the game, which is extremely uncharacteristic considering that they had the lowest total in the entire league. Seven of those turnovers came in the third quarter alone, which was the catalyst for San Antonio’s collapse. Again, I’m not too worried since the team is still trying to rediscover their footing, but it’s definitely something worth monitoring once they return after the break.
  • After playing just 10 minutes on Tuesday, Keldon Johnson was given a lot more free rein tonight. Big Body came off the bench and played a total of 22 minutes, contributing nine points and being his usual aggressive self.
  • Speaking of playing time, Poeltl was limited to less than 23 minutes due to early foul trouble. As a result, he struggled to get into a rhythm and only made one basket while pulling down five rebounds. At the beginning of the game, he was looking extremely effective running the high pick and roll with Murray, so hopefully the big man can stay on the court for longer in the future.
  • Lyles had a very efficient night, knocking down seven of his nine shots. He ended the game with 10 rebounds as well, resulting in his first double-double of the season. Lyles has now scored in double-digits for four consecutive games, and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Pop keeps his minutes up even after Aldridge returns.
  • DeRozan ended the night with four assists after notching 11 for three straight games. The guard continues to be a stabilizing presence for San Antonio, and I wonder how serious the Spurs would be to move him if the right deal came along, as the team is already listening to offers on many of their veterans.

Next game: Vs. Mavericks next Wednesday

The Spurs get almost a week off before heading to American Airlines Center to face off against the Mavericks next Wednesday. Let’s hope most of the team will be healthy and available to play by then.