Last time the Spurs and Thunder met, Russell Westbrook shot an abysmal 2-of-16 from the field and finished with just 6 points. Tonight was different. The Thunder went into San Antonio and left with a 113-100 victory behind Russell Westbrook’s 31 points.
The first quarter started with horrific defense by Oklahoma City on the perimeter. Thunder players struggled to defend the Spurs on the perimeter, and it led to the Spurs’ Marco Belinelli shooting 4-of-5 (3-of-3 from beyond the arc). The Thunder and Spurs locked up at 21 to end the first quarter.
The second quarter belonged to the Thunder reserves, as Oklahoma City’s bench squad built up a lead. The Thunder put up 40 second quarter points behind Westbrook’s nine and Reggie Jackson’s 10. The Thunder ended the first half with a 61-50 lead shooting 56% from the field.
While the 3rd quarter was huge for Oklahoma City last time these teams met, it almost collapsed for them this time around. As the Fox Sports broadcast put it after the game, when the Spurs and Thunder play its half basketball and half a battle between two heavyweights. At times this game was beautiful by both teams, and at others, specifically the third quarter, it began to look like a dog fight. The Spurs began a rally and outscored the Thunder 26-24 in the third, and took their momentum into the fourth.
As in the first half though, the Thunder bench mob would come in and hold their own. Specifically, Steven Adams and Jackson played their hearts out in the second half. While Jackson filled up the stat sheet, it was hustle plays and great screens that made Adams’ play stand out. The Thunder reserves kept the Thunder lead and as Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka checked back in it was the Thunder that finished the strongest in the fourth quarter and came out with a huge victory in Texas.
On a night where Kawhi Leonard was out for the Spurs, many were probably thinking a huge night was ahead for Durant. But the All-Star small forward was pretty quiet, all things considered. Durant finished with just 17 points (6-of-14 shooting) and had five rebounds and three assists.
There were plenty of bright spots for the Thunder to make up for Durant’s lack of scoring. Westbrook was terrific tonight: 31 points (13-of-22), four rebounds, and eight assists.
Plenty of other Thunder players looked fantastic as well. Jackson must love playing the Spurs. He followed up his career high 23-point performance against them with a 21-point game tonight. Ibaka also contributed with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb, six points, had a quiet night but still hit 2-of-5 three-pointers.
Another bright spot was the Jedi of Hustle and his Padawan: Nick Collison and Adams. With Kendrick Perkins getting into foul trouble both Collison and Adams had to step up and their play was key in defending the Spurs down low. Collison finished a +20 while adding eight points and four rebounds. His defense was outstanding. Adams was a locomotive at times. His presence was noticed by big time defensive stands, hustle plays, and tremendous screens.
Next time you see Adams set a pick, try and measure the amount of space he takes up. He’s getting so good setting great screens.
This was a huge win for the Thunder as far as I’m concerned. With their only losses coming on the road, a big Western Conference match-up against a good Spurs team was a great test for them. The Thunder came out with a victory and extended their winning streak to 9 games.
Next up for the Thunder, the Raptors in Oklahoma City tomorrow evening.
Keys to the Game
Reggie Jackson: A
Jackson was tremendous once again against the Spurs. There was 21 points, three rebounds, and four assists for the Thunder’s sixth man, but it was his slashing through the Spurs’ defense that made a difference. At times it looked like the Spurs had no answer for Jackson. I’m not sure how you defend that though. Imagine getting torched by Westbrook for 10 minutes, him getting tired, and THEN you have to deal with Reggie? Ouch.
Tony Parker: B-
I was glad to see Tony Parker play tonight. The Thunder need to see good teams with their best players. Tony was good, and was a huge part of why the Spurs had much of a chance tonight. The Thunder allowed Parker 23 points and eight assists. His 11-of-13 free throw shooting was too many easy points that Thunder gave up. But the fact that the Thunder won, and that Parker was almost out-played by two Oklahoma City point guards means that the Thunder did a decent job defending him.
The Spurs are a tremendous team in terms of fundamentals. Last time these two teams clashed the Thunder out-rebounded, out-assisted, and committed less turnovers than the Spurs. This time the only one of those categories that the Thunder won was rebounding (48-37). The difference this time would have to be the play of the Thunder bench who did a lot more stat-wise than the Spurs’ reserves. Nick Collison was a +20 and Reggie Jackson was a +19.