After a really impressive outing last game, the San Antonio Spurs faltered tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs seemed to have control of the game before they hit a wall and never recovered. The undermanned Thunder, to their credit, continued playing hard and were able to escape South Texas with a 107-102 victory.
Overall, this was a disappointing loss and not the way the good guys wanted to head into the All-Star break. With 40 games in 68 nights after the break, every winnable game is important if the Spurs have hopes of making it to the playoffs. This was a winnable game they let slip through their fingers.
Luka Samanic hit a three-pointer in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to give the Spurs a six-point advantage. Unfortunately, that’s when San Antonio’s offense went missing. They scored only one basket in the next seven minutes of action, as the Thunder went on a 14-2 run to take a 95-89 lead with five minutes remaining. The Spurs were never able to close the gap.
The Spurs have been the least turnover prone team in the NBA this season. Tonight, San Antonio had 19 turnovers … and they were even sloppier than that number suggests.
Spurs vs. Thunder: Final Grades
After three straight games with 11 assists, DeRozan never really got going tonight in any facet of the game. He was inefficient as a scorer, his playmaking was iffy at best, and his defense oscillated between bad and really bad. Give credit to Luguentz Dort for defending him well and the Thunder for clogging the lane — but DeRozan could have been sharper.
Murray has taken such great care of the ball recently that it was shocking to see him so loose with the rock tonight. In his previous six games, he had three turnovers total. Against the Thunder on Thursday, he had five turnovers. Defensively, I was also not super enthused by Murray’s play. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 33 points and eight assists — and it was Murray’s main task to slow him down. The bright spots: He had his share of heady passes, he pushed the pace well and he was really effective in the first half when calling his own number.
The only Spurs player tonight without a turnover was Lyles. He might have been the only member of his team that acted like he knew what to do when the ball got in his hands. While he passed up a couple of threes, that’s my only criticism about his offensive play. He was even able to act as a focal point at times. Defensively, he was above average and, specifically, really helpful on the boards.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker shot the ball from distance well. That said, he could have been more forceful and more stubborn on the offensive end. Defensively, he was much more active than usual. He was also reading plays better than he typically does.
It’s been a while since Poeltl struggled but tonight was definitely a struggle. He was in foul trouble for much of the game. Part of the problem was he was sticking out his leg repeatedly while setting screens and getting caught. He was also not as disciplined about avoiding needless reaches on defense. His rolls to the rim weren’t crisp enough and his finishes below the rim were too finesse.
Mills had sporadic sparks of energy but never really sustained an effective level of play on the offensive end. He wasn’t bashful about shooting but his movement wasn’t as frenetic as usual. Defensively, he was active in one-on-one matchups but wasn’t always consistent about fighting around screens.
Johnson is another player who found it difficult to find a rhythm. He looked winded tonight, which is understandable considering his recent bout with COVID-19. Defensively, players were blowing by him left and right — and his lack of defensive rebounding fortitude was surprising to see from someone who is typically so powerful on the boards.
All in all, there were more good glimpses from Samanic against Oklahoma City. Defensively, he had a few mistakes in rotations and a couple unwise fouls but he once again displayed a lot of potential on that end. It’s becoming clear that his combination of quickness, strength and height gives him a high ceiling on defense. Offensively, he hit only 1-of-5 three-pointers but was otherwise solid. He wasn’t hesitant to shoot and moved well without the ball. On both ends, Samanic’s rebounding instincts were impressive.
For a two-way player, Bates-Diop is performing admirably. I liked a lot of what he showed tonight. From his rebounding to his sneaky-good passes, and from his willingness to launch three-pointers to his crafty drives to the hoop, the 25-year-old is showing some legitimate NBA skills. If he can turn up the volume on his overall intensity, he’s someone who could stick in this league.
Pretty good showing from Eubanks. He hit a jumper, authored timely passes, rebounded well and was able to survive defensively on the perimeter. He was hesitant here and there but he could generally be counted on to help the cause.
Eh, I didn’t really like Pop’s rotation tonight. It seemed more random and less strategic than usual. With as much as the Thunder were packing the paint, playing Walker more minutes would have been helpful. Plus, with OKC going without a true center for the entire game, Pop could have gone with smaller lineups overall. In terms of Xs and Os, Pop could have done a better job. On defense, too much switching allowed Gilgeous-Alexander to feast on overmatched defenders. On offense, there were too many isolations where DeRozan was trying to make something happen with Dort on him. Considering Dort is by far the Thunder’s best defender, mixing up the offensive attack would have likely resulted in a superior outcome.
The All-Star break is upon us. The Spurs don’t play again until next Wednesday when they go on the road to play the Dallas Mavericks.