Apr 4, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) attempts a shot against Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) in the second half in Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The game had been hyped for a while, and the game in some ways lived up to the billing. The Thunder had been preparing and waiting for this since last Saturday, while this was the 4th game in 5 nights for the visiting San Antonio Spurs. The contest was an up and down one, mostly down, but one that watched the game can’t help come away with the fact the San Antonio Spurs, if they can get healthy, can not only compete, but beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. The night showcased the blossoming of a young star, the continued dominance and time machine antics of another, the emergence of a rookie, and the rediscovered touch of a clutch veteran. The downs were noticeable, the downs are possibly fixable. The game though showed promise. The game gave a slight glimmer of hope to a fan base eager for one last ride down championship lane.
Whos hot: Kawhi Leonard. The adjectives for this young man are starting to be few due to the fact that they have been repeated all too often. His offensive and defensive play tonight was nothing short of spectacular. Not only did he chase around Durant, but he made Durant chase him! It was a night that made you sit in awe and excitement for the coming playoffs for this budding superstar.
Whos not.: Tiago Splitter. Tiago to put it nicely was pathetic. He was soft and his aggressiveness on offense was non existent. On defense he was mildly decent. His 1 of 7 shooting coupled with poor rebounding and soft over all play really really hurt the Spurs and was a decent sized reason the Spurs lost the game. If Tiago Splitter wants the big pay day this off-season, and wants the big minutes, he has GOT to play with a lot more fire and has to be a lot tougher down low.
Turning point : Quite simply it was when San Antonio’s favorite person to hate, Derek Fisher, entered the game. After he entered he shot 4/4 from three point land to take a close tight game and make it a blowout early on. His threes seem to kill all goodwill the Spurs had going for them early on and really had them playing catch up all evening long. As much as it pains me to say it, its not surprising. Hes made a career out of timely big shots, and last WCF, he showed he still had the knack for clutch as he and Harden sank the Spurs from the outside. Tonight, he again sank them with three after three finishing 5 of 7 from 3 point land, and 17 points overall.
The stat: 19-3 Fast break points. The Spurs had some fast breaks, but they ended as well as a Taylor Swift relationship. Crash, burn, ugliness, and quite frankly, made you cringe. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Nando De Colo all had chances at wide open layups and somehow or another the Thunder got rebounds and went the other way. The Thunder live on mistakes and make you pay for it quickly the other way. Tonight, in my humble opinion, it was the difference maker.
UP NEXT: The Spurs have a whopping 1 day off before they turn around and play the surprisingly playoff bound Atlanta Hawks at the AT&T Center. THEN, they get a shocking three days off before heading to Denver to take on the extremely tough and Gallinari-less Nuggets.
Tony Parker 2 points 1 of 6 shooting 4 assists 1 rebound
I’m going to be easy on Tony because from the get go, you could tell he wasn’t right. He wasn’t moving fluidly, he wasn’t moving with ease and speed and he also wasnt getting to his favorite spots.Tony’s night was cut short when Pop realized the same and ended the pain and sent him to the locker room. All night it was clearly a struggle as Parker was hobbled by neck, ankle, and now reportedly shin injuries. Its an understatement to say the Spurs need Tony Parker healthy in the playoffs, and right now, this game was a bad sign of the future. More than likely Tony will be shut down until further notice to get as healthy as possible before April 20th. Luckily, thats 16 days from now. Plenty of time to heal. Hopefully…
Danny Green 6 points 2 of 7 shooting 2 rebounds 2 assists 1 block 2 steals
It was an, interesting evening for Danny, Some moments he was solid, defending decently, moving well, and hitting a big three in the 4th quarter. Other moments, were ugh moments. Turning it over on the in-bounds, driving to the hoop and literally passing it straight to Kevin Durant. Just derp inspired moments from the guard from North Carolina. His one big highlight was a clean block from behind on a wide open Kendrick Perkins for a dunk. That said, to beat OKC, Green has got to make his shots and has got to play more under control. You cannot turn the ball over with impunity against OKC and live to tell about it. Its that simple and Danny Green gave the Thunder points. That said, in an improvement from the WCF, he actually MADE a couple 3s. The 4th quarter one to cut the deficit down quickly was huge but couldn’t over come his turnovers.
Kawhi Leonard 24 points 9/18 shooting 14 rebounds 6 assists 1 steal
Magnificent, energetic, spectacular, all star like can all be adjectives used to describe the quote easy going kid from San Diego State. His night was high light filled with fantastic drives, put back dunks, and great poke aways on defense. Leonard not only dazzled with his athleticism, but his jump shot was pure as well as he went 3 of 4 from the 3 point line. the one negative? Free throws. While Leonard has drastically improved his free throw shooting this season, tonight, he was rookie Leonard all over again. The 3 points left on the floor proved to be huge down the stretch as when fouled in the 4th quarter he went 2-4 losing out on precious points. In the playoffs one would think Leonard will be carrying a bigger load and in the playoffs free throw shooting is paramount. Kawhi has GOT to make his free throws, especially in the 4th quarter of close games. That said, Leonard exploded and did all one could ask for coming 4 assists shy of a triple double.
Tim Duncan 24 points 9/19 shooting 11 rebounds 3 blocks 1 assist.
It was another death taxes and double double game from the father time killer his own self. Duncan drove around Nick Collison and Perkins with slight ease getting baskets and going to the free throw line three times were he sank all 6 free throws. Duncan’s defense was defensive player of the year esque in his shutting down of the paint at times. Duncan however down the stretch looked energetic and healthy, he just took some very questionable off balance jump shots. Shots fading away, high arching, rushed, and just plane dumb. That said, there is little to find at fault with Mr Duncan as he put in a fantastic effort again and in the playoffs, the Spurs will need this Duncan. If they can get it? The chances of river parades get better.
Tiago Splitter 4 points 1 of 7 shooting 6 rebounds 2 assists 1 block 2 steals
Sigh. Where do I begin. Do I begin with the Thunder getting away with guarding him with Derek Fisher at one point? No that’s too easy. Do I begin with him rushing and barely grazing the iron on a huge offensive rebound instead of re running the offense? Wherever I begin it begins with Tiago having an apathetic, lazy, soft uninspired game. Tiago from minute one struggled with OKC’s length and quite frankly was pushed around easily by the likes of Ibaka, Perkins, Collison. A prime chance to prove that last year’s playoffs were a distant memory, and that being in the starting lineup proved he was a different Splitter, was lost. Instead he looked like the same, slow, soft bad European center as he did last June. Tiago is a phenomenally gifted center. hes smooth, fluid, big and broad and has a knack for getting open. He just seems to not do this vs OKC, and if the Spurs are to hoist another LOB, they need Tiago to shake off the softness bugaboo.
Grade : F
Bench 11 of 26 28 points,10 rebounds,6 assists,3 steals
Well, the bench was not a large bench by any means due to the injuries to Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili. However, they were a huge reason the deficit was whittled down to 3 in the 4th quarter and one that gives me and other Spurs fans great hope come playoff time. Boris Diaw fed and shot the ball well in the 4th quarter, along with the flashy De Colo nailing 2 3s off pick and rolls and diving to the basket fed by Duncan. Neal rediscovered his shot and made the thunder pay by scoring 10 in the second quarter and was a huge reason the evening was salvaged. Diaw fed and was fed on the offensive end in the 4th and made the slow to rotate Thunder pay over and over. The bench was quite simply, the bench we had become accustomed to. Sans Jackson and Ginobili of course. The bench for the first time in a long time, looked good. Defensively they busted their butts, they tried to slow down but not foul the opposing Thunder. If De Colo, Neal, Diaw can all replicate these efforts, and get something from Jackson and Ginobli, them the Spurs will be breathing a lot easier come playoff time.