The Oklahoma City Thunder started 1-10 from the field. From there, the first quarter took on the same tenor. A lot of long jump shots from Russell Westbrook, a largely non existent Kevin Durant (4 points on 1-4 shooting in first quarter) and balanced offensive effort from the Spurs.
At the end of the first quarter, the Spurs had shot 12-22 (.545 FG%) and limited the Thunder to 7-23 shooting (.304 FG%) They outrebounded the Thunder and looked like the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The only blemish, once again, was their free throw shooting.
The Spurs had to weather a 17-10 run from the Thunder — which proved to be a prevailing theme in the game, stay tuned. The affable, yet enigmatic, DeJuan Blair played with high energy throughout the first half. The imposing Serge Ibaka protected the rim with relative ease — 4 blocks in the first half alone — yet that still wasn’t enough in stopping Blair from grabbing seven boards and pouring 18 points on 9-11 shooting in the first half. Tony Parker and Westbrook were enjoying a tight matchup with neither holding the decisive lead. Aside from making all five of his free throws, Durant was struggling to get to his spots on the floor.
Again. Another run. OKC began the third quarter with a 12-2 run that cut their 17 point deficit to seven. At the end of the third quarter, the Thunder outscored the Spurs 31-27. Westbrook chimed in with 13 points of his own.
The game brusquely turned into a fierce game with a litany of turnovers and potentially momentous swings. Aside from a couple of timely 3-pointers, the Spurs didn’t seem to match OKC’s intensity. The Thunder benefited from careless basketball, a roaring home crowd and Durant’s quiet resurgence. Durant improved his efficiency as the game wore on — shooting 6-12 in the second half. The good thing was that Durant was working really hard on the offensive side of the ball and wasn’t getting too many easy points aside from Duncan’s incurious decision to give him a good angle on a layup.
Ultimately, the long, contested jumpers caught up to the OKC. The point differential was too much to overcome even for the second best offensive team in basketball. Parker gave the Spurs a reprieve from their ineffective offense by running the pick-and-roll. He knocked down a couple of elbow jumpers as a result. Duncan also made a key play when he was matched up with Ibaka on the low block. Because of his superior post position, Ibaka was already at a disadvantage. Duncan took advantage of this and went up strong, creating the and-1 opportunity (which, of course, Timmy missed). Spurs went up 109-105 and OKC never recovered. Green did the rest.
Player of the game: Danny Green
Here is a brief synopsis of Green’s impressive fourth quarter.
Green 3-pointer with 9:06 remaining. Spurs lead Thunder, 95-90. OKC was in the midst of an impressive 20-4 run that spanned the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter.
Green 3-pointer with 8:31 remaining. Spurs lead Thunder, 98-90.
Green 3-pointer with 6:12 remaining. Spurs lead Thunder, 101-96.
(I forgot to take notes during this stretch of the game. Sorry.)
OKC is set to run a SLOB set with 59.3 seconds left. Spurs up 109-105. James Harden is the inbounder. 6’6″ shooting guard James Anderson is guarding him. As Westbrook cut towards the ball, Green took a good angle and, coupled with the lazy pass from Harden, Green created the turnover and finished the play off with a dunk. Spurs up, 111-105, with 56.6 seconds left.
0:00- Game over. Spurs win 114-105, handing the Thunder their fourth loss at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Green’s impressive line — 21 points on 8-12 shooting (.875 eFG%), four rebounds, five 3-pointers, five steals, one block and only two turnovers — was one of many solid performances tonight. I could’ve nominated DeJuan Blair — 22 points on 11-15 shooting, 11 rebounds (six offensive rebounds). Or Tim Duncan’s 16 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks. Or Kawhi Leonard’s 15 points, five rebounds and three steals. Or Tony Parker — 25 points and seven assists. Really. Anybody would suffice.
But why Green? Well, simply, his (lack of) turnovers. The Spurs totaled 17 turnovers and that was the main culprit in the Thunder facilitating their comeback.
Something to consider: More minutes for Kawhi Leonard
Leonard played a team high 38 minutes and 59 seconds tonight, representing his third highest volume of minutes this year. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it happened without Manu, Richard Jefferson or Stephen Jackson. One of the main reasons why the Jackson-RJ swap works (besides the salary relief and flexibility that has been analyzed ad nauseum) was the extra minutes going towards Kawhi. This is a good thing. Kawhi was averaging 23.6 minutes which is way too low for a guy that provides a lot of value to the Spurs — rebounding, flexibility, defense. It’s time to let the beast loose.
Topics: Danny Green, DeJuan Blair, James Anderson, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Manu Ginobili, Oklahoma City Thunder, Richard Jefferson, Russell Westbrook, San Antonio Spurs, Stephen Jackson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker