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San Antonio vs. OKC, Final Score: Lonnie Walker’s game-winner lifts Spurs past shorthanded Thunder, 122-120

The Spurs eked out a win against the severely shorthanded Thunder.

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a game that never should have been close, but the Spurs managed to eke out a win against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was down seven players. Hitting a season-best 19 threes on 41 attempts, the Spurs got out to a 16-point lead in the third quarter, but poor defense and turnovers allowed the Thunder to come all the way back and take a late lead before a heroic Lonnie Walker three with 1.3 seconds left gave the Spurs the 122-120 win.

Walker was one of three Spurs with 20+ points on night, along with 22 from Keldon Johnson and 26 from Dejounte Murray, who had another near triple-double with 12 assists, 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 34 points, and Darius Bazley scored 25 for the Thunder.

Observations

  • The Spurs announced before the game that Doug McDermott is likely out of the remainder of the season with a Grade 3 ankle sprain (the worst kind) suffered on Saturday against the Pacers. It’s a tough loss for the Spurs not just because of the offensive value he provides, but it leaves the team very small and lacking any size at the forward positions outside of injured Keita Bates-Diop and scarcely used Devontae Cacok. It appears Josh Richardson is going to start in McDermott’s place from here on, so expect to see a lot of four-out ball, with four guards/swingman surrounding Jakob Poeltl or Zach Collins, plus some KBD (when healthy again) sprinkled in when size is needed.
  • The Spurs got out to an early 14-4 lead, but Poeltl was saddled with early foul trouble, and the Thunder used a 14-7 run to get close again. The Spurs still ended the first quarter up 37-29, but the defense was unimpressive for most of the second quarter. Gregg Popovich had to call a timeout after OKC scored 10 points in the first three minutes, and they eventually tied things up at 51 apiece with 4 minutes left in the half. However, that seemed to finally wake the Spurs up. Three straight threes from Collins and Walker got the offense flowing again, and two more from Johnson allowed them to close the half on a 17-5 run and get up 68-56.
  • Josh Primo may have officially hit the rookie wall, but that’s fine. Most players do, and it’s almost inevitable with regular rotation minutes, but the way he’s handling it makes him mature beyond his years. He doesn’t let it get in his head, and his confidence and energy never waver. To wit, in the second quarter, he followed a missed Richardson three for an emphatic putback slam in the second quarter when no one who have noticed if he simply headed back on defense.
  • Devin Vassell had a funny stat line at halftime. Other than one assist, he was 0-fer across the board (on just two shots) but was also a team high +25 in plus-minus. However, he soon busted up the zeros with a three-pointer to put an end to an 8-3 Thunder run to start third quarter. The Spurs got the lead as high as 16 but failed to put the game away, and the Thunder used a 15-4 run to get back within five before the Spurs ended the quarter up 98-91.
  • The Thunder continued to light up the Spurs to start the fourth, hitting four threes and using an 11-0 run to take a 109-106 lead with just under seven minutes left. Pop somewhat surprisingly kept letting his guys play, and they instantly responded with a 6-0 run. The Thunder would later use a 4-0 run — all from the line — to get the Thunder back up by 1 with 1:45 left. A bucket and then big block by Poeltl preserved a Spurs one-point lead, but Aleksej Pokusevski leaked out on defense for a layup to give the Thunder a 120-119 lead with 4.8 left and a foul to give. However, they didn’t use it, Walker hit a three with 1.3 left, and Primo defended SGA’s desperation corner three well — maybe even getting a finger on it — to give the Spurs a much-needed win that never should have been that close to a loss.
  • There probably aren’t many people who would have guessed defense would be a bigger issue for the Spurs than offense coming into this season. Shooting was a serious concern, and while several players could still do better, Johnson has helped mitigate some of those concerns by turning into one of the best three-point shooters in the league seemingly out of nowhere, plus the Spurs have been one of the best shooting teams from inside the arc all season. However, despite having several good individual parts on defense, they haven’t meshed into a cohesive unit yet. Communication is often an issue, too often poor rotation leaves shooters wide open in the corner, and the aforementioned lack of size on the team has often left guards and wings stuck on bigger forwards down low. The Spurs have to look at getting bigger this offseason.

For the Thunder fan’s perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.

The Spurs will end their homestand on Friday in a big game for play-in purposes against the New Orleans Pelicans. Tip-off will be at 7:30 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA.