Oklahoma City 108, San Antonio 109

by

There will be plenty of time to figure out what DeJuan Blair is. Who he will be able to matchup with, how much can be expected of him against elite playoffs teams. Not even Gregg Popovich knows what to expect from him on a night to night, as Buck Harvey noted in his blog:

“I’m going to take what he gave us tonight, and I don’t know how he did it,” Popovich told reporters in Oklahoma City. “I have no clue what his moves are. He’s just a basketball player. He hustles his [tail] off, he’s got a nose for the ball, he’s got great hands and he does what you saw. We didn’t teach him any of it. He brought it all with him.”

For the night, Blair was a beast. And moving forward he is, at the very least, a player who can be counted on to eat minutes and boards. Whether that translates over to a postseason with shortened rotations and higher stakes remains to be seen, but over the course of a long season, with Duncan needing rest on nights like last night, it’s a valuable commodity.

Last night Blair returned to his college days, putting up 28 points and 21 rebounds. And in some ways, it was like college, seeing as how most of the Oklahoma City roster seemingly would have had some college eligibility left had they not chosen to take their immense talents to the league a year or two early.

It’s that youth that both serves and torments the Thunder, who will likely be a playoff team for the first time this season. It’s why the Spurs were able to get off to a 19-point lead in the first quarter and why that lead was never safe.

Tony Parker proved plantar fasciitis or not, he’s still quick enough to blow by poor defensive techniques (Westbrook) and on occasion even outstanding perimeter defenders (Sefolosha). Parker matched Blair’s 28 points, added eight assists, and generally looked like himself through the first half.

Kevin Durant got his numbers, but took 31 shots to get his 35 points and the Spurs did an excellent job of forcing him into turnovers (7) while limiting his free throw attempts (6). Combined with Westbrook (25 points, 13 assists) it was enough to force an overtime game against a Spurs team that used a shortened 8-man rotation on the second half of a back-t0-back.

Capping off a week that will have seen them play five games in seven nights, the Spurs have another back-to-back looming against the Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies.

Both games should provide plenty of rebound opportunities (Charlotte) and minutes against big bodies (Memphis). On the heels of a dominating night from Blair, it’s nice to know the Spurs can count on a player to consume both.

  • VP of Common Sense

    Let’s not forget Blair single-handedly kept us in the game when Boston was in town.

    The kid is a gamer and that’s not something that’s taught.

    He is a 6’7″ 280lbs Manu Ginobili.. I don’t know how he does it, but man is it fun to watch.

  • VP of Common Sense

    *sorry, Dejuan is ONLY 265lbs

  • Ken

    Best part about the game last night: Listening to Sean Elliot go ballistic about the reffing when Blair picked up his 4th-6th fouls. He almost couldn’t speak. I thought he was going to storm the court. (Speaking of which, didn’t he once receive a warning from the refs during the ’05 championship games against the Pistons? He was actually on the radio with what’s-his-name and yelled at the refs or something over a bad call. You gotta love the passion and homer-ism of Sean Elliot.)

  • Tanjavur

    It sure is great to see how we are evolving…the baton is slowly but surely passing to our newer guys. Manu had a bad shooting night and TD did not play and we wrenched this win on the road.

    Watch out! Blair is THE PREDATOR!

    We’d be second in the west if not for that one unfortunate 4th quarter against the Mavs. Go Spurs!

  • agutierrez

    I also love how Blair and Manu have so quickly adapted to each other. Manu instinctively looks for guys cutting to the basket and Blair instinctively does so. Blair knows you must ALWAYS anticipate a pass from Manu, no matter from where or how, but somehow it’s coming, so be ready. Contrast that with Dyce, who still can’t quite get in a groove with Manu. Hard to believe that connection has come so quickly for a rookie. Blair must smile to himself every night when he sees Manu checking in. And when a particularly good one does come, like the one last night through Jeff Green’s legs, Blair betrays the stoic exterior that Pop demands, and just grins from ear to ear, like he did earlier in the season with Manu’s behind the back, no-look one. Come to think of it, just the anticipation of such connections makes me smile with a kid’s giddiness waiting for the next game to start.

  • Josh

    Great to see that even with TD chilling and Manu having an off shooting night we had the pieces to compete & snatch a win! In previous years, we’d be looking to Finley for all those points, or Bonner to up his rebounds… Last night the beast ate those stats for lunch.

  • Ken

    agutierrez, speaking of Blair smiling. I just LOVE the fact that he smiles after a nice play, like he actually enjoys it! Instead of just acting cool like it was normal. He laughs and smiles. Case in point: In OT when he banked in that free throw, he laughed at himself, admitting it was dumb luck. Normally guys keep their faces straight as if they intended to do that all the times. Blair loves being out there and enjoys it and that makes me enjoy watching him even more….

  • Beat Counselor

    Someone commented a few days back how the Spurs needed a gritty guy that has a bit of an edge like Elie, SJax and Horry to give us a little attitude.

    Blair might very well be that guy.

    I officially apologize for ever being skeptical about his size & potential and how they would translate to the NBA.

    I love it.

  • jerome

    grizzly blair sure does amazed. i really he will be a factor this season. i have the same excitement i had when manu joined the spurs in 2002-2003 season. i bought my blair jersey last august even though he hasn’t played a single game for the spurs. GO BLAIR GO!

  • DieHardSpur

    He has the IQ to go along with the soft touch of a finisher. You guys are witnessing the rising of a future NBA star. Right now, people are talking about the Amar’e’s and the Bosh’s… give it a few years and they will be talking about the Grizzly Blair in the same sentence.

  • Tristan Wilkins

    I love the landing of Blair {the steal of the draft} on this “new” spurs team. He gives us so much energy! And he seems to be finding his way if he is in the starting lineup. So all in all, Blair is awesome for the spurs, and he can learn alot from Timmy, McDyse, Ratliff, and Manu. Very good team for him to be on. Timmy got rest and they still hung in there and won. All to the play of Blair, Manu passing and court presence, and hell Tony is playing pretty good since i critized him. Sorry T.P. I will lay off. But i worry this may effect his play later in the playoffs, if he keeps running full steam like this. Good hustle but we still got a half a season still. Anyways like usual/ GO SPURS!!! GO SPURS!!!

  • Matt

    As a Spurs fan in central New York, I love reading this blog to hear more about the team. The content, writing, and comments are all great. There just seems to be one thing that’s a little screwy–headlines like this: “Oklahoma City 108, San Antonio 109″

    Why don’t you list the winning team first? I’ve noticed this a few times, and thought that you consistently listed the visiting team first (which seems a bit strange), but last night’s game was in OKC, so that explanation doesn’t seem to work. I guess I’m old school, but it just seems like you’d list the winning team first…

    Like I said, though, great blog. Keep up the good work!

  • SpurredOn

    @ Ken – I had to watch on NBATV, where the OKC broadcaster kept yelling out “he traveled” or “that’s not a foul” in favor of OKC. Most of the second half. Yet replays often showed he was either wrong or just over-biased on 50/50 calls. Yet when it came to the bs late fouls on Blair, no mention. It made a tense game more intense in my home but winning fixed it all. The sixth foul was an awful call.

    I’ll be interested how Pop manages TD’s playing time and Blair’s minutes in the next b2b games. Memphis has tons of size and is a division game so having both guys able to play their normal minutes is important.

  • bigtee34

    as far as the memphis game goes I hope duncan plays since im going to it. However if it is anything like this game was im ok with him sitting out.

  • junierizzle

    It looks like TD is going to sit out against Memphis. Its all good because The Grizzly Blair.
    He should do fine against another young team.

    Blair is great if given the chance. I only wish POP had left him in against the Lakers. He had won good play where he backed up Odom as if he were a little kid. He should have left him in to build up his confidence even more. We all saw what he did in the Boston game.
    I hope POP doesn’t sit him in the playoffs because he is a rookie. Just like he did Hill last year. We’ll see.

    On a side note, how about MANU??? Are you kdding me? I was down in the dumps then on cloud nine all in the same play. WOW.

    On another side note, can you imagine TP without plantar flatiwhatever???????????

    Oh yeah, Manu. Are you kidding me?

  • not as good as I once was

    What I notice most is something that hasen’t been there all season and that is the Spurs have a little more bounce in thier step. Makes me feel maybe they are starting to come together. Manu oh! Manu God they broke the mode when they made him. I’ve never seen anyone play with such chaois he is amazing! Blair is a monster only thing scares me is his knees how many years can he play with no achilles. ( sorry don’t mean to sound so negative)

  • Anthony G

    Yea, Vp_common_Sense! Blair is like a bigger Manu! Energy guy, that can do alot when given the chance!!! However, i still feels he has alot to improve on, which is scary, because he has showed how well he has adapted to the NBA and improving each game!! Glad that he has Duncan by his side, and learn the game from one of the best!!

  • David R.

    junierizzle, where did you see that Duncan is going to play at the Bobcats and sit at Memphis?

    I’m going to the Bobcats game and I’d hate for him to sit the whole time, although, watching Blair go for 28 and 21 wouldn’t be too bad…

  • Ivander

    Can someone tell me where I can find “dunks per game” stats. For some reason I got the feeling that the Spurs dunk the ball more often this year than they used to in the past…? Possible?

  • junierizzle

    @ David R.

    I haven’t seen that anywhere. I’m just assuming that POP is gonna sit TD on back-to-backs. Or not start him like he did in Toronto.

    If you’re going to the BOBCATS game then TD should be playing since it’s the first game. Have Fun. You’re right though, watching Blair put up 21 and 28 aint too bad.

  • Hicksy

    It’s great to see this group slowly coming together.
    Hopefully with another B2B maybe we might get YAWN some burn as well? I thought Haslip may have gotten some time on the Durantula last night but with the amazing job we did forcing him to be a jump shooter it wasn’t needed.
    OMG the BIG GRIZZLY BEAR !!!!!! Can we even see his ceiling??? Lets keep this role going
    GO SPURS GO!!!

  • not as good as I once was

    Just in case anyone is wondering my remark on Blair was meant to be a pun I know its his acl but the remark stating achillies was made becuse Achilles the warrior was invinceable

  • Drom John

    By all-star voting definitions, the best center in in the west is Gasol. I’d play Duncan against Gasol and rest against the Bobcats.