The San Antonio Spurs really needed to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night because their next six games are difficult. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The Spurs got up big but couldn’t hold on and dropped to 14-19. With the win, OKC improved to 19-15 and won their fourth straight ballgame.
The first quarter was a back and forth affair and ended at a 27-27 tie. After the Thunder scored the first three points of the second quarter, the Spurs responded in epic fashion. San Antonio’s 17-0 run took less than four minutes and gave the good guys a lead of 44-30. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there for the Spurs.
The Silver and Black held a 55-46 lead at halftime but that advantage quickly evaporated in the second half. After Oklahoma City climbed all the way back, the two teams traded buckets near the end of the period. Heading into the fourth, the Spurs clung to a 76-74 lead.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Thunder used a 9-2 run to turn a tie game into a 92-85 advantage with 6:36 remaining. From there, the Spurs could never get within four points of the Thunder, as OKC responded with timely shots whenever San Antonio made any type of run.
Overall, this was a disappointing loss. Sure, the Thunder came in winners of seven of their previous eight games but the Spurs could have gotten a W if they had played their cards right. But once they grew that 14-point lead in the second quarter, their offense died on the vine. The defense had its moments but they couldn’t come up with needed stops. A few poor performances and some bad coaching ended up dooming the Spurs. Now, the road ahead looks even more difficult and the Spurs have even less room for error.
Spurs vs. Thunder – Final Grades
LaMarcus Aldridge was once again a marksman from three-point territory, hitting all four of his shots from deep. He’s now shooting a sizzling 43.8% on threes this season. Unfortunately, he was only 3-for-9 from two-point range against OKC. He rebounded pretty well, defended the basket attentively and played pretty hard. Aldridge got in foul trouble in the first quarter and that seemed to disrupt his rhythm. He also became paranoid about fouling once he reentered and that negatively impacted his individual defense.
The good: DeMar DeRozan did a lot of heavy lifting on his way to a game-high 30 points. He drove the ball hard to the rim and adequately created when the majority of his teammates were stuck in the mud. His defense was decent enough and his pouting level was less than usual. The bad: DeRozan did a whole lot of dribbling. The Spurs needed him to create but he often waited to attack instead of attacking within the flow of the offense. His playmaking was underwhelming, which was partly due to him being out of rhythm in terms of when he should have attacked. The bottom line: The Spurs would have been in trouble without DeRozan but he could have played better.
Dejounte Murray was a hurricane of activity. Unfortunately, more of the activity was negative than positive. His running of the offense was somewhere between bad and nonexistent. He had a couple of careless turnovers and wasn’t setting up his teammates well at all. His shooting was okay — he hit another three-pointer — but, all in all, his offensive play was a disappointment. Defensively, I wasn’t too impressed, either. He didn’t defend well against drivers and was unable to make much of an impact at that end at any point in the game.
Bryn Forbes played 29 minutes — and it’s difficult to find anything he did well. He shot poorly: 1-for-9 from the field, 1-for-7 on threes. During important possessions, Forbes could be found missing a shot or making a mistake. Defensively, he held up decently in the first half but got roasted in the second half. Then again, I’m not sure what the coaches were expecting when they put Forbes on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Forbes getting cooked alive while picking up five fouls is about what one would expect to happen.
Trey Lyles started again but once again didn’t give the coaches any reason to continue starting him going forward. He hit a three-pointer but that was about the extent of his usefulness. His defense was unsightly; Lyles was either too soft and got manhandled or committed bad fouls. There was no middle ground on that end.
This is the same type of game we’ve seen repeatedly out of Derrick White as of late. He’s looking better physically and shows flashes of athleticism on defense. Tonight, he was once again good at rebounding and challenging shots. Offensively, though, there’s not enough force. He’s making good passes but he’s also spending a lot of time dribbling aimlessly and being timid about calling his own number. Let’s hope White soon remembers that he’s really good at scoring off the dribble and attacking the basket. It’s good that he’s shooting more threes lately but he needs to get back to taking it to the rim and either scoring in the mid-range or going all the way at the basket.
Ouch. This was a forgettable one for Patty Mills. He was forcing his jumpers a hair too much, which resulted in a 1-for-8 showing from the field and missing all five of his three-point attempts. He also wasn’t making many plays or helping out ball-handling-wise. The only thing he helped do on offense was push the pace for the bench unit. Defensively, Mills was more muted than usual and didn’t interrupt the proceedings on that end.
Lonnie Walker IV
There was a lot to like about Lonnie Walker IV tonight. Once he checked into the game, the Spurs seemed to come alive. It’s not only his athleticism and speed that changes things for the better for San Antonio, Walker also brings an element of creativity that keeps opponents guessing. Offensively, he shot with confidence and did well driving to the rim, although he could have been more powerful in his finishes at the basket. His hustle on the boards, in transition and on defense was great to see. While Walker was out of position a few times on defense, I thought he was solid on that end overall and had a few really fine plays.
Rudy Gay didn’t get a whole lot of touches tonight but he produced well in his 21 minutes. He hit 2-of-3 three-pointers to raise his three-point percentage on the season to 32.4%. Gay also made good passes and held up defensively against a physical Thunder squad. In retrospect, the Spurs should have given the ball to Gay more than they did.
This was another action packed game for Jakob Poeltl. Two more blocks and three more assists as he’s really starting to stand out in both of those categories. He’s a heady passer who can find players before they are open. On defensively, when he’s got it going, he can shut down a huge amount of acreage all by himself. Offensively, both of his made baskets were impressive dunks.
The good: Pop played Walker and didn’t play Marco Belinelli. That’s a definite plus. He also tried out the Murray-White backcourt for a couple minutes. That, too, is a plus. Pulling the plug on Lyles was the right move. The bad: Avoiding Forbes on Gilgeous-Alexander should have been the top bullet point on the scouting report. Instead, Forbes played 29 minutes while missing all but one of his shots and whiffing at air as Gilgeous-Alexander or whoever he was switched off onto scored on him. Forbes should have played fewer minutes, obviously. Walker should have played more minutes. Pop should have gone back to him in the fourth but instead stuck with Forbes and company. More White and even Murray could have helped. DeRozan playing 39 minutes doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially when it was the bench that made the run in the first place. The bottom line: Poor scouting and the lack of in-game adjustments made this game more difficult than it needed to be.
Next Up for the Spurs
The Spurs get to play the Milwaukee Bucks, a league-best 31-5, two games in a row. Yippee. Needless to say, if the Spurs can get a split, that’d be fantastic.