That’s what you call a tough loss.
The Thunder were up 13 at the half and they really controlled the game right out of the gate. They kept the Spurs to 16 points in the first quarter and were +11 in rebounds at the half. Controlling the boards is huge against a team like San Antonio. The once 21-point-lead fell to only 3 points when San Antonio went on a big run in the third quarter. With about four minutes left, San Antonio tied the game after a Patty Mills three-pointer. The fourth quarter was rough for OKC and the Spurs held them to only 19 points. The final few possessions came down trading baskets and the Thunder fell short against an elite team.
Russell Westbrook earned his 39th triple-double of the season, he ended the night with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. He had a chance for a game winner at the end of regulation with 20 seconds left, but got blocked at the rim and the game was over. My instant fan reaction was, “why didn’t he shoot it?” Well, if he had shot it and missed, I would’ve instantly thought, “why didn’t he drive to the basket?” So, I really can’t complain, but I should point out that Doug McDermott was wide open. The result isn’t the issue, it’s the process of having an extremely predictable offense in those scenarios. Russ has been incredible in clutch situations this season, but tonight he should’ve passed the ball to McDermott and trusted his teammate to knock down the shot.
The Spurs really struggled to keep up in the first half of the game, but their collective effort in the second half is what makes them such an impressive team. Tonight was a good reminder of what the Spurs are capable of. Their roster is overachieving this season, but Popovich just makes it work year after year. Kawhi Leonard finished the night with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He shot 10-of-22 from the field, but had no turnovers.
- The half-court for the Thunder has been an outgoing issue that really hinders this team. In transition, OKC has athletic guys that are great at finishing around the basket. When the game slows down, this team looks like a mess and the offense is just ugly to watch. This team was not built around Russ being a one man show, so it’s hopefully something that gets addressed in the offseason.
- The defense has been lackluster as of late for OKC, but tonight the defense wasn’t the issue. When the Thunder play against a team with more traditional bigs, they’re able to keep up on defense and play to their style.
- I’ll never understand why Semaj plays off-ball as much as he does.
- I really don’t care for lineups that pair Russ with multiple non-shooters that aren’t bigs, especially late in the game when it’s close. Russ can dominate a defense with his elite play-making abilities and he’s at his most lethal when he has a big that can roll hard to the rim and has competent shooters around him at the wing. It sometimes seems like Billy Donovan is making Russ play 2K on Hall of Fame mode to see if Russ can somehow just make the offense work.
- Jerami Grant has been playing better as of late. I really like what he offers this team and he’s still only 22 years old and has time to develop his game. He struggled against Kawhi at times defensively, but that’s a tough match-up for any player. Giving Grant opportunities against elite wings is the best way to develop his game.
- Russ and Oladipo combined for 15-of-39 from the field and 11 turnovers. They really struggled at times to make shots go in, but I liked seeing Oladipo shoot at will. He didn’t get to the free throw line tonight and he really needs to work on getting to line more.
- The Thunder still have an opportunity to move up or down in the Western standings before the season ends. It’s still pretty likely they’ll end up facing the Rockets in the first round, but I’m rooting for anything but that. I think the Thunder stand a good chance against any team that doesn’t have multiple elite three-point shooters.