Apr 4, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) handles the ball against San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) in the first half in Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday night provided another difficult test for the Spurs, as the brutal late-season stretch continues, cutting down San Antonio’s lead in the Western Conference down to a half game. In a match-up that may very well be the deciding factor in who gets homecourt throughout the playoffs in the west, the Thunder played energetic and inspired basketball. Basically what you would expect from a team that’s been off since Saturday.
Tim Duncan continues to maintain his double-double average this season, with 24 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes. Duncan was also a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, helping to boast his career-high free throw percentage this season.
I honestly can’t say enough about Kawhi Leonard, and I don’t plan on even trying. The second year player out of San Diego State, came 4 assists shy of his first career triple-double, with a gaudy line of 24 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists, all in 42 minutes. Not bad for someone who sat out the night before with a “sore left knee.”
For Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant had a humble 25 points to go with 9 rebounds and 6 assists, on 50% shooting. Russell Westbrook also had a strong performance with 27 points (on 21 shots), 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
The final score doesn’t tell the entire story. Even though the Spurs lost by double-digits, and the Thunder seemingly had control for most of the game, the Spurs never gave up down the stretch, getting the deficit down to 3 points with 5:50 left in the 4th. But Oklahoma City had an answer for everything San Antonio did, on both ends of the floor.
The next game gets a little easier for the silver and black, as the Spurs host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, April 6th, at 8:30 PM EST.
- Apparently it was “Turn Back the Clock Night” in Oklahoma City, as the Spurs let 38-year-old Derek Fisher absolutely torch them for 17 points, while shooting 5-of-7 from beyond the arch. I don’t understand how, all I can do is watch and drown my sorrows in beer later. Why D-Fish is getting meaningful minutes on a championship caliber team, is beyond me. But if this is how he’s going to play against the Spurs, you can’t fault Scott Brooks for rolling him out there to play 15 minutes a night.
- With every passing game, I seriously consider naming my first born child Kawhi. I’m honestly disappointed in myself that I still let his game surprise me. The 3-point shooting, rebounding, improved court vision and confidence in creating for himself. All I can keep doing is thanking the 13 teams that passed on Leonard and thanking the Pacers for accepting George Hill as payment enough.
- Something I found interesting tonight, and I might be the only one, was Pop’s willingness to only play 8 guys. Even with the injuries to Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson, Popovich kept his rotation tight and trusted rookie Nando De Colo with a decent workload, which those minutes will no doubt prove vital come playoff time. There are times when I find myself wishing Nando wouldn’t shoot as much (9 shots in 23 minutes tonight, compared to 7 for Danny Green in 30 minutes), but I love the confidence he has to keep firing.
- The biggest negative coming out of tonight’s game, has to deal with Tony Parker’s health. Parker only played 25 minutes, and didn’t make it more than 2 minutes into the fourth, before being sat down with what Coach Popovich is calling, “shin tendinitis.” Not only is that cringe inducing, but it means it’s definitely time to start worrying about not only Parker’s health, but also his conditioning with less than two weeks left in the regular season.