I keep thinking about a scene from Jurassic Park right now. After the T-Rex shreds the two Ford Explorers, tossing them into that giant tree and leaving Tim in it covered in his own vomit, Grant comes up to get him. They climb down, branches give way and the car chases them down to the ground, eventually hitting the bottom and falling over as Grant and Tim miraculously find an opening as the car falls over them.
And Tim says, “Well… we’re back, in the car again.”
After a demoralizing Game 3 loss, the Thunder are back, in a hole again.
They got their win in Game 2, the necessary one in San Antonio. And then they gave it right back — literally in a sense — with Game 3. They led by four with seven minutes to go after a flurry featuring a corner Serge Ibaka 3 and an off balance Russell Westbrook wing 3. They were up two with five minutes to go. They were down three with two minutes to go.
They finished by turning the ball over three back-breaking times, and watching as the Spurs slowly stabbed them to death with well executed plays and one soul-crushing offensive rebound. The Thunder were a tragic crunchtime mess. And as they often do, in spite of themselves, they still had their chance. Grab one rebound with 20 seconds left, and the ball is in their hands with a chance to tie or win.
Westbrook was almost eager to take responsibility for it all.
- On Tony Parker’s wide open jumper where four Thunder players were all pointing at each other: “That’s my man. That’s my fault.”
- On the crunchtime offense: “Execution. That starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of executing and putting guys in position to score the basketball, especially late. And especially against good defense. You gotta find ways to move the ball around and that starts with me so I’ve got to do a better job leading into the next game.”
- On the late turnovers: “I turned the ball over, especially with the game on the line. Just got to do a better job, man, lock in. I take responsibility when the ball is in my hands to make plays for my teammates and I didn’t do that tonight.”
- On his 10-of-31 shooting night: “Just too many shots. Honestly, man, I’ve got to do a better job, like I said before, getting guys shots. Steven [Adams] got one shot. Gotta get other guys involved, especially to beat this team. Even though I had some shots I made, I gotta read and find ways to get guys shots. I take the blame.”
I don’t know who that guy was sitting up there with that red bandana on, but it was impressive to watch him shoulder it. And sitting next to him, Kevin Durant let him.
It’s hard not think about this game and What It Really Means. Durant played well. He scored 26 on 10-18 shooting. He made some big plays late. But Westbrook missed three more shots than Durant took, and the rest of the supporting cast didn’t come up with much, outside of Ibaka. In terms of a worst-case-scenario, this is the worst way for the Thunder to lose this postseason. Durant doing his part, and his superstar running mate not doing his, along with the rest of the cast. You can connect those dots, I think.
But the Thunder seemed to have it right there. Their old foe came back to haunt them once again, with reckless turnovers and bad shots biting them. The Spurs didn’t really execute brilliant offense or anything. They more just capitalized on the Thunder’s bad offense. They drew fouls. They scored in transition. They got offensive boards. The Thunder didn’t close, and now it’s back in the car again.
In the same way the series wasn’t over after Game 1, though, it’s not over after tonight either. The road just got longer, and more difficult, but like Durant said, there’s a game on Sunday.
- Donovan took a long winding road to explain Waiters’ not-so-quick 2 with 18 seconds left. He described the play, and ended up basically saying he wanted the two and “hoped” the Spurs would miss a free throw. That’s fine. Just not the part of the play taking 14 seconds to get a shot off.
- Now, that’s not all Donovan’s fault. The Spurs blew it up, the Thunder didn’t react well, and the result was disaster. It was equivalent of Andy Reid trying to draw up a quick 2 in a four-point game.
- That dry spell to end the first quarter and extended into the second. Oof. Seven minutes, it was.
- Something has gotta give with the Cameron Payne lineup. Payne got a little something going in the fourth, but it’s just a problem. I understand Donovan’s logic, but again, tossing Payne into this lion’s den seems unfair. For example: March 13 against the Spurs, Randy Foye played 15 minutes. Payne got a DNP-CD. And now Payne is playing nine big minutes in the second round.
- I thought Ibaka’s defense on Aldridge was excellent. Aldridge made some toughies, because he’s awesome, but the Thunder made him work for every bit of it.
- Andre Roberson’s defense is starting to get some attention. Kawhi Leonard is a great player, so he scored 31 anyway, but Roberson fought him tooth and nail for every bit of it.
- Same with Dion Waiters, who competed like crazy on the defensive end. The Thunder did their part there, mostly. They just failed themselves on the other side.
- Westbrook took a foul when caught on a switch on Aldridge. I can assure you, Westbrook has NEVER done that. He normally relishes mismatches. That tells you a lot about how the Thunder feel about Aldridge.
- Who wants to ask the “last home game” question to Durant tomorrow or Sunday? Anyone? Any takers?
- Does each free throw Dion Waiters makes feel like a minor miracle to anyone else? I have no idea why. He’s a decent free throw shooter. But each one seems like a prayer for some reason.
- Donovan was drinking the Gatorade on the podium, which isn’t a no-no, per se, but just no one ever does that. Kind of a metaphor for his inexperience, I think.
- Tony Parker was the difference for the Spurs. He shook loose and ran their offense in the second half. And that changed everything.
- I think Donovan has to consider trimming to a seven-man rotation. At least a seven-man in the second half. You can’t play Durant and Westbrook all 48 — though for Durant, it’s been done before — but 45 for each doesn’t seem unrealistic to me.
- Enes Kanter has been fine in this series, just not any kind of impactful X-factor.
- Game 4 on Sunday. It’s gonna be tense.
Next up: Game 4 on Sunday in OKC