Game 54 Recap: Spurs (23-31) def. Thunder (32-22) 114-106
Official Box Score link
Move aside, 12 point whipping by the Wizards in the home opener. Scoot over, 15 point home lambasting by the LeBronless and Browless Lakers. Scoochie, 26 point road pasting by the Pacers.
We have a new frontrunner for worst Thunder loss of the season.
On paper, an 8 point defeat to a desperate San Antonio Spurs squad fighting for a playoff spot wouldn’t seem to qualify as the low point in the OKC season.
But here’s a list of reasons why the Thunder should have won this game:
- DeMar DeRozan didn’t play.
- The Spurs were on the second night of a road back to back.
- The Spurs had lost 5 straight games and 8 of their last 10.
- The Spurs were 8-19 on the road coming into the game.
- The Thunder are just better than the Spurs.
To make matters worse, LaMarcus Aldridge would “only” scored 25 points on “just” 9 of 20 shooting. Now those are solid numbers for most any other player, but against the Thunder, LMA usually scores twice as many points on half as many shots. OKC couldn’t capitalize on a relatively pedestrian night from the infamously renowned Thunder killer.
So given all the favorable circumstances, how did the Thunder manage to lose this game?
Three of the Thunder’s five double digit scorers, all of them efficient on the season as a whole, each had one of their worst individual shooting games of the year.
Trade deadline darling Danilo Gallinari scored only 15 points on 4 of 16 shooting. Leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate Dennis Schroder scored only 14 on 5 of 13 shooting. And owner of the NBA’s all-time fourth best shooting percentage, Steven Adams, only scored 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting.
Despite the struggles from Gallo, Schroder and Adams, the Thunder’s starters played the Spurs to a near standstill in their minutes on the floor because OKC’s top guys are just that good. Team scoring leader Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 17 points on 11 shots and honestly probably should have taken more shots with his teammates struggling.
Then there was Chris Paul. The 34 year old Point God was the best player on the court tonight for either team. It’s disappointing that this weekend’s Thunder All Star representative scored a season-high 31 points on 12 of 18 shooting, including 5 of 9 from downtown, on a wasted night when the rest of the Thunder couldn’t hit get much to fall.
With CP3 and Shai carrying the rest of the Thunder’s top brass to a draw in their collective plus/minus, this game was lost by the Thunder bench. Normally, Schroder’s scoring and Noel’s two way dominance give the Thunder reserves an advantage over most units. But Schroder was off, Noel was in foul trouble all night and played limited minutes, and Darius Bazley is out 4-6 weeks with a bone bruise.
Lineups featuring all three of Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo and Abdel Nader were used extensively tonight and to expectedly poor results. Noel’s injury led to third string center Mike Muscala jumping into the rotation as well. The Thunder were blitzed by the Spurs when the bench unit was on the court.
The Thunder have a backup wing problem. I know it. You know it. Sam Presti knows it. I can’t blame Presti for not using any assets to buy one at the trade deadline as he doesn’t want to hamper the future for a present playoff run, as fun as it may be. But it will be fascinating to see if OKC signs any buyout players, as there are plenty shooting guards and small forwards who would be an improvement over the Thunder’s current backup wings. Some may shudder to hear the name, but a Dion Waiters would’ve really helped the bench unit tonight.
The effort and fight was still there, as multiple 14 point Spurs leads evaporated due to the Thunder’s patented competitiveness. OKC tied the game at 89-89 in the fourth quarter, and it looked like we might be on the verge of yet another big double digit Thunder comeback. OKC’s offense went up a notch in the final period, per the usual. But this time, the Spurs refused to miss anything in crunchtime. Popovich’s team hit 13 of 16 shots, most of them contested midrange jumpers, down the stretch to ice the game.
This was a bad loss, there’s no way around it. Maybe the worst of the season.
Thankfully, this Thunder team hasn’t given us many candidates.