San Antonio Spurs 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 74: That team defense looked sort of familiar


I get the impression that Kevin Durant has the capability to score 80 points all by his lonesome, sort of like Kobe Bryant a few seasons ago. So for the San Antonio Spurs hold Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder under 80 points in a 101-74 win for the Spurs, well, that’s a big deal.

For most of the night, San Antonio’s defense of old ran the show. The Spurs chased the Thunder shooters off the 3-point line and stopped them before OKC’s men got to the basket, giving them shots in that middle ground known as inefficiency.

For the most part, you won’t see a Spur defender square up to the man he’s guarding on the perimeter. Usually, they shade more to one side of the other, inviting the man they’re defending to put the ball on the floor instead of take a 3-point shot.

From there, the Spur defender guides his man into the help defense and forces the opponent to either shoot the ball from the mid-range, a shot Gregg Popovich can live with, or get rid of the ball.

It takes a lot of trust in your teammates to allow yourself to give the appearance of being beat off the dribble. But against Oklahoma City on Saturday night, the Spurs were full of trust. The result was under 33% shooting for the Thunder and only 1-7 from the 3-point line. It was a bit of a defensive masterpiece.

Here some other assorted bullet points from San Antonio’s 29th win of the season:

  • The Spurs have run their pet alley-oop play for Richard Jefferson a number of times this season, but it seems like over the last two weeks they’ve run it at least once per game and gotten points. It seems like it usually comes in the first or second quarter, too.
  • Gary Neal didn’t check into the game against Oklahoma City for the first time until there were just four seconds remaining in the first quarter. Ime Udoka actually entered the game before Neal, which I thought was interesting.
  • Tiago Splitter celebrated his 26th birthday with six points and six rebounds in about 20 minutes of action against OKC, though he only shot 2-7 from the floor. Also, he still hasn’t figured out the whole defensive 3-seconds in the lane rule.
  • Some day, some day, George Hill will hit the roll man when he’s running the pick-and-roll. And when he does, all the land will rejoice and throw parties in his honor.
  • There were a possible 396 fourth quarter minutes that Tim Duncan could have played this season. I’m curious how many of those minutes he has actually played. My guess is about a third of them. I’d love to see a pie chart displaying the percentage of those minutes Duncan has played. Duncan played 27 minutes against the Thunder and put up 21 points on 10-15 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds. He’s still got it. [Update: I’ve been informed that Duncan has played in 140 of a possible 396 fourth quarter minutes through 33 games this season.]
  • rob

    And yet some will find somthing to complain about.

    This was a clinic on how to play team ball. Trust your teammates and play your game.

    I haven’t seen the Spurs play as good as they have been playing in quite some time. Even in their championship seasons I haven’t seen the team (total team) play this good.

    Keep it up Spurs…tough road trip ahead.

  • rob

    By the way…Funny stuff about George Hill. That kind of criticism makes it worth the read.

  • Ian

    I believe you meant 33rd game of the season rather than “33rd win”… although I’m quite sure that 33rd win of the season isn’t far behind.

    You could say OKC was out of gas for a back-to-back road game against a tough opponent like the Spurs, but a win is a win and the Spurs defended really well nonetheless.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Awesome game! Did I read right that Neal had 8 Rebs? Wow!
    TP, TD and G-Hill were the only ones that shot well with more than 5 attempts.
    I love this team!
    What’re the odds that Pop’s been playing some possum with Tiago and now that the New Year’s here, he’s gonna spring him on the League and REALLY let this team rock and roll to and through the playoffs?
    And Dice got to sit and we still don’t have Neo (Mr. Anderson) back yet? I think the rest of the West had better take notice that they’ve been served!
    And the East, too, for that matter!

  • grego

    Credit to the Spurs D. OKC coming off a back to back had to contribute a little bit.

    “Gary Neal didn’t check into the game against Oklahoma City for the first time until there were just four seconds remaining in the first quarter. Ime Udoka actually entered the game before Neal, which I thought was interesting.”

    >This is because Pop wanted someone to play Durant after RJ left the game. And Udoka seemed to work well on Durant.

    “Tiago Splitter celebrated his 26th birthday with six points and six rebounds in about 20 minutes of action against OKC, though he only shot 2-7 from the floor. ”

    Ibaka made his life and many of the other Spurs’ lives difficult at the hoop. Ibaka is the big reason OKC even got it to the 10 point area.

    “Some day, some day, George Hill will hit the roll man when he’s running the pick-and-roll. And when he does, all the land will rejoice and throw parties in his honor.”

    Still not a point guard. This is why it is ridiculous that people wanted to get rid of Parker in favor of Hill. Hill’s at his best when he’s aggressive and looking for his own shot. Maybe this summer he will work with the coaching staff on his passing game now that his scoring game seems to be maturing very well.

  • grego

    @SAJKinBigD – Anderson won’t be back until mid to late January.

  • Bruno

    Very good game. TD was TD, TP very good, Blair playing well, Splitter good defense and show some moves in 4th(i think he will be “the man” with TD), Hill scoring well of bench, Ginobili playing for the team( +21 with him), Bonner need less minutes to Blair and Tiago play more…

  • hemisfair89

    Hey I just gotta do some venting after another impressive Spurs win. So I head over to the ESPN website and of course it’s not the Spurs headlining their NBA page, but the Heat. Even better is the part ” after giving up 72 points to the Warriors in the first half, the Heat clamped down”. Followed by stupid articles such as: “what if Lebron was a Warrior?” and “Lebron doesn’t see MVP in ’11” . Seriously, what would it take for the media to give some respect to the Spurs? I guess as a fan of this team for 20 odd years now I should be used to this though.

  • NYC


    I would not say “a win is a win.”

    Last game against DAL was a win, as was tonight’s game against OKC, but they were two very different wins. Even if it’s true that OKC was tired, playing the second of a road back-to-back, we still played an outstanding team game giving great effort on both ends. And that is the reason why I applaud this game and not the DAL game. The DAL game was a sloppy game which we happened to win. No applause for that. Even if we had lost tonight, I would still applaud the great sustained effort the team put out there.

    People can keep pushing the kool-aid, but I’ll never drink it. Only runner-ups and second-place finishers (i.e., first-place losers) console themselves saying “a win is a win.”

  • rj

    good point about george hill not hitting the role man. there were a few possesions in which hill opted for difficult shots (granted he made them) rather than finding tiago for a easy dunk or layup. pop should criticize him for this. not only is he passing up a high percentage shot from the role man, but spurning a chance to get a struggling team mate involved in the game. tiago’s post moves looked quality and i can’t believe serge ibaka isn’t a starter. guy is a straight up stud

  • Regan

    Best defensive performance of the team this year, which topped our previous best against the Lakers. The defense was amazing and a good sign as we look towards the playoffs.

  • Regan

    Best defensive performance of the team this year, which topped our previous best against the Lakers. The defense was amazing and a good sign as we look towards the playoffs.

  • rob


    ” @SAJKinBigD – Anderson won’t be back until mid to late January.”

    And at that probably won’t be ready for meaningful minutes for another month if not more.

  • Rafael

    Man very good game, very good defense. I like so much this… Splitter moves so well, all time he do good pick-roll, but need the others players pass the basketball for him… He lose some easy basket in 1th?Yes. But he made great moves, make good defense and show his talent…Pop need develop him, give more minutes!!He still be our 5th man

  • Bankshot21

    Well we finally saw the defensive effort we were looking for…or did we? Has Spurs nation forgot the trouncing that Orlando put on us after we played the night before? The back to back is brutal. So I do credit a lot of the blowout to that. We can’t use it as an excuse for our loss then act as though it didn’t play a factor in our win. We were good defensively tonight as we were good defensively against Dallas. That 99-93 final was misleading. We had them under 90 with less than a minute to play. A couple of 3pt heaves changed that. We are hitting our stride defensively. I’m going to try my hardest to get tickets to MSG on Tuesday. If I’m not lucky I’ll have to settle for the New Jersey game in February. I’m sure they’ll be giving away tickets. Lol.

    Go Spurs Go!!!!

  • NYC


    How are planning to get tickets? Because I’m thinking about going to that game as well but don’t think I can afford the Garden.

  • td4life

    man oh man, I enjoyed watching this game tonight! Happy New Year, indeed.


    “If I’m not lucky I’ll have to settle for the New Jersey game in February. I’m sure they’ll be giving away tickets.”

    Lol. Brook Lopez is like a walking billboard telling Carmelo NOT to come to the Nets… I believe Splitter is better than that suppossedly untradeable franchise player… if Pop is still around, I think we lure Favors to SA in a few years.

  • Chris

    Well it looks like Manu’s already peaked for the season and is running down already. Fortunately now they don’t need him to play well to be successful and win as they’ve shown the last few nights.

  • 6lol6

    great game to watch!
    so many guys always say that Pop should play Splitter more minutes,but do we know every little thing about Splitter better than the coach?Seriously ridiculous!
    It’s still a young season,but i do hope we can reclaim the title as TD is aging,and a possible breakout…
    Go Spurs Go!

  • Bankshot21


    I was just going to see what nosebleeds were available. But as you said those will be pricey also. Will most likely stick to the Nets game.


    I actually like Brooks game. He’s just an awfully bad rebounder. His back to the basket game is nice. He blocks shots. Not a great defender. Drew many TD comparisons because of his stellar back to the basket and better than average range for a big man. He’s on my fantasy team. Doesn’t rebound worth a damn. It’s so frustrating. Had a terrible line tonight of like 4,3,2 with 2 steals and 3 blks. The 4 points is the anomoly being he averages 19 but TD didn’t have lines like that until this year. Lol.

  • SAJKinBigD

    I didn’t realize Neo was still gonna be out another couple weeks. :( Bummer.

  • ThatBigGuy


    A win IS a win; otherwise it would be a loss.

    Good win against a quality opponent. Now let’s smoke the Knicks and C’s and get some airtime on ESPN.

  • Hobson13

    January 1st, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    “Even better is the part ” after giving up 72 points to the Warriors in the first half, the Heat clamped down”.

    Glad the Heat were able to beat that juggernaught of a Warriors team (sarcasm). More Heat pandering by BSPN.

    January 1st, 2011 at 9:05 pm
    “We are hitting our stride defensively.”

    Good observation, but I would say that we are BEGINNING to hit our stride defensively. Before our current 4 game win streak, we had given up an average of 110.8 ppg over 5 games (against the nuggets twice, the Suns, the Grizzlies, and the Magic) that culminated in that ass kicking we received from the Magic. Let’s recap what happened after that disaster game:

    Hold a terrible Wizzards team to 80 pts on 38% shooting.

    Hold Lakers to 82 pts on 35% shooting from the field and were virtually even on rebounds (Lakers won 51-50). Held Kobe to 8-27 in large part to George Hill. This was the 2nd best defensive effort.

    Hold Mavs to 93 pts on 43% shooting and outrebounded Mavs by 15. Held Jason Terry to 3-16 shooting in large part to Hill.

    Hold the Thunder to 74 pts on a putrid 33% shooting while slightly outrebounding them by 2. This was probably the best defensive effort of the year so far.

    No question that the whooping we received from the Magic opened our team’s eyes to the need for defense. If you take the last nine games, we gave up almost 111ppg in the first 5 and only 82ppg against our last 4 opponents (which include the Lakers, Mavs, and Thunder). That’s some big time improvement (a 29ppg improvement) in a very short period of time.

  • spursfanbayarea

    “Some day, some day, George Hill will hit the roll man when he’s running the pick-and-roll. And when he does, all the land will rejoice and throw parties in his honor.”

    -Actually I think Hill needs to stay aggressive when he is on the court. In the past he has deferred to other teammates too much. Hill is our scorer off the bench and he needs to be aggressive to be effective. In my opinion I think popovich wants Hill to be as aggressive as possible. Also Hill is one of our top finishers. He has obviously been paying close attention to parker and can finish in multiple ways.

  • mybloodissilverandblack

    About the whole Udoka ahead of Neal thing, it was all good because Ime played great defense against Durant.

    I, too, noticed George threw the ball all over the place against OKC. Maybe pick-and-roll isn’t his thing? Nonetheless, he gotta play quarterback in this team that prides itself in ball movement.

    As far as birthday boy Tiago is concerned, I think he is on the right track when it comes to his learning curve. Pop is letting Splitter explore what needs to be studied in terms of his role in the offense, how to deal with NBA bigs, and the whole 3-second rule. So, yeah, not bad.

    I still want Tiago to build some bulk, though. He was too lanky when he guarded Bynum and GSW’s Gadzuric. Maybe he needs that truck tire turning exercise that Timmy does?

  • MatP

    I also logged onto ESPN and noticed that the Spurs are at very most a mere after thought. So after reading these comments I decided to log onto Fox Sports as well. Once again we are mentioned after this great team, the Heat (Sarcasm). I know it gets beat into the ground but seriouly… What do we have to do to get more then a quick mention? Even better is NBA TV and ESPN on tv…. It is a freaking joke how much air time we get. Also can anyone answer why, when the Spurs have a game on TNT do they somehow mention how the other team is losing this game because XYZ of execution… Its never because the Spurs are a better team. The Sports Nation has become pathetic… Its about TEAM effort and no team in sports can say they win games with a complete team effort like the Spurs do… Sorry to vent but I watch sports religiously and I am just tired of all of the media BS..

  • mybloodissilverandblack


    “Now let’s smoke the Knicks and C’s…”

    The team needs to figure out those back-to-backs. They struggled BADLY against Orlando on a back-to-back tail end. Hmm, maybe managing minutes on the first night? Not playing somebody, even?

    “…and get some airtime on ESPN.”

    Nah. Let’s forget about the Miami Heat Channel.

  • mybloodissilverandblack

    BTW, does Manu still have that sinus thing? Looks like he’s still chewing gum and not playing like the El Contusion that we know.

  • Hicksman

    It’s a double edged sword with George he is our scorer off the bench but also must see the easy pass for easy lay up / dunk etc but he is developing nicely, not only nice to see Tiago get some burn but to see him although shooting 2-7 he could have easily hit 5 of those 7 but was missed on easy opportunities off the pick and roll. He moves soo well without the ball and also on the defensive end collecting a charge or 2 a game. Any idea’s on Anderson’s input to this team upon his return into the rotation?

  • grego

    “Before our current 4 game win streak, we had given up an average of 110.8 ppg over 5 games (against the nuggets twice, the Suns, the Grizzlies, and the Magic) that culminated in that ass kicking we received from the Magic.”

    Missing Hill during that time definitely hurt the team defense.

    “The team needs to figure out those back-to-backs. They struggled BADLY against Orlando on a back-to-back tail end. Hmm, maybe managing minutes on the first night? Not playing somebody, even?”

    Spurs have been pretty solid on the back to backs. Orlando was just a really bad one with the team arriving at 4/5 AM in the morning. And Hill wasn’t back. The Magic also were struggling going into that game. It was the perfect storm for the team.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    So the past four games have shown that the San Antonio Spurs are beginning to have the solid defense to back up their explosive offense. Once they have the former down pat, the Silver and Black will be a formidable championship contender – even as they continue to be under the radar and virtually ignored by the rest of the big-time U.S. media. Bully to you, ESPN and TNT.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    The luxury of this blowout enabled Tiago Splitter more playing time, which was close to 20 minutes, resulting in a PER of +7 with six points and 8 rebounds, 3 offensive and 3 defensive. A fitting birthday present for the big Brazilian. On the other hand, Antonio McDyess sat it out, so we presume, with the two-day respite, he’ll be ready for the New York Knicks and Amar’e Stoudemire, who could be Dice’s main assignment.
    Fifth straight win coming up? We certainly hope so.

  • r.l.manuel


    NYC@ comon man…
    do you really think a win in dec. means more or less than a win in march or even june, dallas didnt just give us the win

  • r.l.manuel

    imo the mavs worry more about the spurs than the spurs worry about the mavs…

  • Mr Robinson

    I know it was a back to back for OKC but I think the last time the Spurs played them and beat them we where on a back to back. So no matter what way the non believers put it the Spurs are a better team.
    After getting through the Heat headlines on ESPN I did find something interesting on there.

    From Elias: San Antonio’s last three wins came against the Lakers, Mavericks and Thunder. All three entered the game with a winning percentage over .650. It’s the third time in team history that the Spurs won three straight games all against opponents with a winning percentage of .650 or better. The two other instances happened late in the 1998-99 season.

    Did anyone else see the ESPN poll on which team is the best championship contender? The Celtics, Lakers and Heat are way out in front of the Spurs. Are people just that stupid or are they brainwashed by the media. I am starting to think that people are mindless zombies that can’t think for themselves.

    I am predicting todays headlines on ESPN after LAL MEM game.

    Lakers show league why they are the best ever.

  • Daniel T

    Manu was very hoarse in the interview after the game, so is not fully healthy. The “sinus” thing likely came after fighting allergies for a few weeks, cedar pollen in San Antonio being very heavy throughout the month of December. It’s fairly typical for San Antonians to struggle with allergies for a number of days, since it might go away quickly on it’s own, prior to seeing a doctor. It’s only been reported in the past few days that Manu is being treated for a sinus problem and has had to do his breathing through his mouth. Most likely that would mean that he has had trouble getting sleep through the night, and is very worn down. I would expect he’s spending a lot of time in the steam room to break up congestion. It might be a couple of more weeks before it clears up entirely, but he’ll then have a lot more energy than he’s had recently.

  • TD = Best EVER

    Great win – don’t really care how tired OKC was. If we feed our big men early and they can make some shots and play with this kind of energy all season, I think we will be fine.

    Also a quick note on Hill not passing off the PnR.
    Slip the pick and force him to pass………..lmfao!!

  • Cruzan Gold

    Impressive win, moreso because neither TD nor Antonio logged many minutes. This means our veteran bigs will be a little more relaxed for an upcoming gruesome back-to-back against Boston and New York. On another note, Serge Ibaka was awesome.I think the box score credited him with four blocks, but I swear I saw at least seven. Once this guy develops a jumps shot, world make room. Wish he was one of ours.


    I understand Ginobli is sick, but what’s up with settling for all the 3 pointers lately and missed freethrows. It would be 1 thing if he was making them……… Does anyone else notice this??? He not even taking the ball to the rim anymore. We already have enough 3 point shooters on the team. If he wants to shoot a few that’s fine, but shooting 8-11 a game, and only making 3-4 isn’t very good.
    Pop seems to get pissed when Neal and Hill take bad ones (3’s) while Ginobli keeps chucking 3 after 3 after 3. And Pop doesn’t say anything to him. And when he’s not shooting (missing) 3’s, he’s head faking like he wants to shoot 1. We already have enough 3 point shooters on the team Neal, RJ, & Bonner. I know Ginobli is 33 and has lost a few steps to say the least, but I still think that he is the best while drawing contact and fouls and getting to the freethrow line. Putting the ball on the floor, going left, and driving to the rim. Does anyone know when the last time Ginobli had a dunk, or even a layup was???
    Don’t get me wrong, Ginobli is a warrior, the teams finisher, and he brings a toughness, gritness, energy and hustle to the team and he is a key part in this teams success; and he will be in the playoffs and the Spurs push for #5.
    I just wish he would take it easy on the 3’s a little, that’s all. Actually not just him, the whole team to be exact, way too many 3’s. And the best 3 point shooter in the league (Bonner) is only averaging 2-3 a game, while everone else is shooting 8 a game(RJ, Neal, Ginobli.) That’s my only frustration so far.
    I hope Anderson will be back soon, he was shooting 50 % from 3’s in only 6 games.
    BEAT L.A.

  • mybloodissilverandblack

    Oh yeah, what’s the Spurs’ record this season against teams above .500? And above .600, .700, and .800?

    That should be a good gauge of how far this team has come. Since 2008 until last season, our guys had losing records against the Lakers, Cavs, Magic, Mavs, and Celtics combined.

  • badger

    The most intriguing thing for me to watch about their defensive improvement is the point made about the Spurs trusting each other more and more.

    I LOVE how the guards and even the small forwards are playing the opposing player who has the ball. They are shutting down the uncontested J and are leaving the illusion of the open lane to the hoop. As soon as the dribbler takes the bait, which is almost always, a help defender rotates, and the “open” dribbling alley gets closed real fast.

    Then, many times, the dribbler makes an error in judgment and either hoists up a tough mid range shot with hands in his face, or tries to make a difficult pass. The key to the whole thing is the weak side rotations, which are becoming spectacularly efficient and dependable.

    It’s these weak side rotations that have allowed Blair to claim and keep the starting job over Splitter, along with his hustle. Sure, Tiago’s injury didn’t help matters, but Blair is demonstrating to the world why San Antonio got a steal when they drafted him. Once the guy develops a jumpshot, he’ll be a valuable piece for years to come.

  • Bankshot21

    Caron Butler may be done for the season. Down @ least 2 months.

  • DorieStreet

    Outstanding win. Need to keep TOs under 10 per game & keep FT pct. above 75%. Hollinger rank the Spurs #1 in offensive efficiency and #7 in defensive efficiency; he has us #2 in power rankings, behind South Beach. Stein last week had top 4 as Mavs, Celts, Spurs, Heat. Even though Spurs have not lost this week, he will leapfrog SouthBeach to #1 over us because of their comeback win vs Warriors after giving up 72 1st half points. He usually posts it by noon on Mondays.

  • hemisfair89

    @Bankshot: yea I just read the article after seeing your post. Horrible blow to the Mavs! wow. If it’s a partial tear he could miss two months, but if it’s a full tear of the tendon he could be out the rest of this season. He’s their third leading scorer at 15 ppg, and lately he seemed to be contributing even more. So how does this affect the Mavs in the W-L column now? Are they still deep enough to fight for a 2 or 3 seed? As I keep saying.. we gotta stay healthy…gotta stay healthy…

  • TheRed&Black

    I had the pleasure of sitting right behind Sean & Bill for this game, and managed to get an autograph out of Manu and TD! Still struggling with the sinus issue, but like posted earlier could very well just be allergy issues as I am currently feeling that as well. Mc D looked really nice in the pre game shoot around. It really is looking easy for our guys out there right now. Guys look fresh. So lucky to get a nice night out of TD. Blair is a joy to watch, what a natural talent.Manu is the only Spur that is looking a bit tired. I hope POP starts to lower his mpg.(probably wants to but with James Anderson out can’t find the right combination of shooting,defense, and size, so instead we get a concoction of Neal , Bonner, and Udoka; although, I think this is a big blessing, because of all these extra minutes these guys get, the more confidence I hope would carry over into the playoffs when their minutes are diminished. Let there be no doubters, 29-4 is for real. This is a TEAM, and we are not firing on all cylinders yet.

  • TheRed&Black


    This is a huge blow for the Mavs. I see them slipping into the 4-7 range. They are a deep team, but Caron Butler does some really nice things for them. He is probably the biggest mismatch they have on us next to Dirk. Let’s knock on wood, and hope our Spurs can avoid that injury bug. (or have dealt with our share with Splitter, Anderson, and that the biggest thing we have to worry about is a sprained toe from Hill)

  • rob

    The issue with Hill is not that he is proving to be able to score or turn slop into points…it’s the fact that he needs to recognize the better opportunity for points without forcing the issue.

    When playoffs role around…he’ll need to defer more to a better opportunity or the result may be a 2 point loss instead of a 2 point win in a close game.

    I think that will change by that time.

  • hemisfair89

    Yea the 4th to 6 or 7th seed sounds about right. In my perfect world the Lakers would get the 2nd/3rd and the Mavs 7th/6th for a first rounder between those two. Just tired of seeing LA always play either Utah or Denver early on, two teams that don’t match up well with LA. Besides us, the Jazz gotta feel good about their chances at a top three now. Anyways, I really hoping the team can go out and get these next three on the road. We got that 2nd of a BTB at Boston, but those guys are pretty decimated with injuries right now, so there’s no way we can afford to drop that one.

  • grego

    James Anderson working out in the background.

    Spurs No. 1 draft pick James Anderson was involved in extensive work after practice on Sunday as he attempts to recover from a stress fracture in his right foot that has limited him to six games this season.

    The typical rehab time for Anderson’s injury is about 10 to 12 weeks.

    “He’s closer to the floor than he is to the bed,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s closer to wearing a uniform than he is to wearing civilian clothes.”

    Popovich said last week that he expects Anderson to return to the Spurs playing time by the end of the month. But he won’t accompany the team on a road trip this week that will include games at New York, Boston and Indiana.

    “He’ll get a lot more out of the rehab here than he will on the road trip,” Popovich said.

  • grego

    Anderson is finally taking part in an intensive workout. Nice to see. You can see him in the background of Pop’s interview (also talks about it early in the interview).