Oklahoma City 108, San Antonio 109
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).Â On the heels of a dominating night from Blair, it’s nice to know the Spurs can count on a player to consume both.