5 min read

The Thunder bench misses Kanter badly again as they fall to the Spurs, 108 – 94


The big story tonight was the Thunder bench.  They were absolutely terrible in this game.  Without Kanter, they were unable to score, played poor defense and didn’t even resemble an NBA team at times.

Here’s the +/- for the Thunder bench:

  • Jerami Grant -11
  • Joffrey Lauvergne -20
  • Cameron Payne -27
  • Semaj Christon -3
  • Anthony Morrow +8

Morrow was the only player that was a plus and Joffrey and Cam combined for a -47… that’s not good.

Well, I wanted to get that out of the way first.  Now onto the rest of the recap.

The game started out close with neither team shooting well.  The Thunder were down 20 – 17 when Russ checked out in the first quarter.  The Thunder then preceded to allow the Spurs to go on a 11-0 run to finish the quarter, and a total 22-2 run before Russ checked back in.

With Russ back in the Thunder started to play more aggressively while remaining composed on defense. It also helped that the Spurs were missing some open shots.  On the offensive end, the Thunder were pushing the pace, which they weren’t doing much of in the first quarter, and took care of the ball far better than they did earlier in the game (8 turnovers in the first).  The Spurs like to play a slower, methodical type of game, so the up tempo play the Thunder were implanting allowed them to score some points, despite continued poor shooting, while also getting the Spurs out of rhythm.

Despite the disappearance of Victor Oladipo in the 2nd quarter, which this time wasn’t his fault as he didn’t see the floor very much, the Thunder were able to whittle the Spurs large lead down to as little as 8 in the 2nd.  This can be attributed to solid play from Steven Adams (8 points and 8 rebounds in the half) and Domas Sabonis (7 points and 5 rebounds), and finally getting some shots to fall, hitting their first two 3’s of the game at the hands of Russ and AMo. The Thunder went into the locker room down 10, 52 – 42.

Out of the half, the Spurs went on a quick run to go up 16, but the Thunder settled back down on the defensive end and were carried on offense by an amazing quarter for Russell Westbrook and arguably the best quarter as a member of the Thunder for Victor Oladipo.  The Spurs got sloppy, turning it over and getting lazy on defense, and with the help of some poor free throw shooting (which has been a trend for the Spurs lately), the Thunder were able to get back in to the game and eventually took the lead.

It almost didn’t seem real when the Thunder got back into it.  It really was amazing as I thought that Thunder were completely out of this game, especially against a calm, cool and collected team as the Popovich coached Spurs, but somehow, the Thunder managed to do it.

But then… Russ went to the bench to get a breather, the Thunder bench played absolutely terrible again and Kawhi Leonard started feeling it.  He’d been playing pretty solid throughout the entire game, even with pretty stout defense from both Roberson and Oladipo, but once he gets going he is hard to stop… and he is a pretty amazing finisher.

He finished with 36 on 50% shooting along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists.  His efficiency is absolutely incredible.

When Russ checked back in the Thunder were unable to surmount a comeback.  Even with his 27 points and 14 assists, along with a solid showing from Adams going for 16 and 12 and Sabonis with 13 and 10, the Thunder just didn’t have enough fire power.  They finished 7-28 from 3 and with AMo going 1-6 and Abrines out with back spasms, the Thunder were unable to get anything going from the outside.  The Spurs cruised through the 4th quarter to victory, 108 – 94.

Poor bench play, 20 turnovers, an off-shooting night and 30 total team fouls were just a few of the many issues the Thunder had tonight.  I applaud their resiliency in the 3rd quarter to come back from being down by as much as 18 at one points, but with Kanter out they just didn’t have enough on the offensive end.


  • It was noted that Alex Abrines was having back spasms and he did not see the floor tonight.  The Thunder could have used his 3-point shooting tonight as they weren’t able to hit much of anything from distance and didn’t even connect on their first 3 until about 2 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.
  • The way the Spurs use the mid-range jumper is so different from how other teams in the NBA play.  LMA and Kawhi shoot a lot of long 2’s, but they make them at such an efficient clip that they are good shots within their offense.  Maybe the Spurs should’ve gone after Dion in the off season, he’s been known to fire up a long 2 in his day.
  • The position Adams is able to get in the paint as he’s running down the floor while the Thunder are setting up their offense is incredible.  I mentioned it in my last recap, but it allows Russ to make the long entry pass and the defender’s only real choice is to foul or give Adams an easy bucket.  Shaq used to be great at this, it’s really fun to watch.
  • When Sabonis gets a guard switched onto him on the block, he’s got to be able to score or get fouled.  For instance, he had Danny Green on him early in the game, brought the ball down to low, and Green was able to take it away.  He’ll learn eventually as he game progresses, but down the line in his career that should be an easy 2 for a player with his talent and low post skills… and hopefully he can finish it with the right hand one day too.
  • He did have this monster dunk though which I thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Anthony Morrow was rocking a head band tonight.  I liked it
  • Joel Anthony is on a 10-day contract with the Spurs.  Learn something new every day.
  • End of the first quarter:  20 points in the paint for the Spurs along with 6 offensive rebounds and the Thunder had 8 turnovers… not good.
  • The Spurs ball movement in their half-court offense is absolutely beautiful to watch when it’s going.
  • Jonathan Simmons had been hurt and was listed as day to day but he ended up playing tonight.  He’s not a stat sheet stuffer, but a phenomenal athlete with loads of potential who is very active on the defensive end.  Pop will turn him into a solid player in a couple of years.
  • Thunder played much better defense in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, kept the Spurs out of the paint and were very active.  Oladipo was playing very aggressively on the defensive end, one of his better showings I thought.
  • Billy made a move in the third to take Roberson off the floor and put Oladipo on Kawhi.  I thought it was a good decision as Roberson wasn’t contributing anything at all on the offensive end.  I mean, he normally doesn’t contribute much, but tonight was pretty bad.
  • This was kind of odd
  • Not a fan of the lineup with Semaj and Payne to start the fourth.
  • On the bright side, the brutal January schedule is finally over.

Next Up: Tomorrow night at home against Chicago at 8:30 CST.