San Antonio Spurs 86, Oklahoma City Thunder 84: Tony Parker has all your clutch

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AT&T CENTER — When someone tells you they don’t watch the NBA until Christmas or that the league doesn’t matter until the playoffs, I want you to show them a tape of this game. And then stop hanging out with them, they sound like the worst.

In a bit of a scheduling anomaly thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the Spurs and Thunder were the only NBA game on Thursday night. After a Tony Parker buzzer-beater sunk the Oklahoma City Thunder 86-84, NBA fans can thank their lucky stars the night wasn’t watered-down by some other mediocre game.

For the second night in a row it came down to the wire for the San Antonio Spurs, and for the second night in a row Parker was there to hit the big shots late in the game. Not only did he sink the game-winning jumper, but Parker also knocked down a corner 3 to tie the ball game at 84 with 28.3 seconds left.

San Antonio wouldn’t have been in that position without another disruptive defensive game from Kawhi Leonard. I thought coming into the game that Leonard would be a little quieter when it came to playing the passing lanes because of his defensive responsibilities on Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. I was wrong. Kawhi chalked up another five steals including one with 7.9 seconds left that set up Parker’s game-winning bucket.

It’s only two games, but Leonard’s activity as a defensive rover is slowly becoming a trend. Blessed with those long arms and huge hands, he’s caused two teams trouble on offense by simply being around and in the way. It’s also letting him play off of his man in help defense more than most players can.

“He uses his length and his anticipation well to clog lanes and get hands on balls,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “He just has a knack for it.”

On one possession in the first half, Leonard was standing in the lane and defending a Thunder player in the opposite corner. When one of the other Oklahoma City players penetrated and kicked, Leonard was able to deflect the pass to his man out of bounds without having to close out on the shooter. Teams will eventually adjust to this and that’s fine. It will simply make it a little tougher for them to play effective offense without Leonard getting his hands on passes and dribbles.

I asked Danny Green after the game if he felt any more prepared to defend against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant than he did a few months ago, but he said he didn’t. Green cited a better comfort level among the team with its defensive communication and team knowledge in holding Oklahoma City to under 38% shooting on the night. An assessment with which Pop agrees.

“I think it was excellent: The activity, the communication, the transition D,” Pop said. “But more than anything, we took care of the ball.”

Indeed, the Spurs only turned it over 13 times on the night to OKC’s 18 giveaways, and that helped prevent the Thunder from getting out on the break and converting too many easy baskets.

Underrated huzzah on the night goes to Green. Danny finished with 13 points on 5-9 shooting (3-6 from 3) and five rebounds. He was aggressive offensively exactly when the Spurs needed him to be, including one pull-up 3 in transition that caught OKC off-guard, and he was excellent at closing out on new Thunder addition Kevin Martin on the perimeter. Green sold out on the 3-point shot and forced Martin to put the ball on the floor and take a step inside the arc for a shot. More often than not, Martin missed. Green put in an important shift Thursday night.

Oh yeah, and Tim Duncan put up 20 points and eight rebounds.

It’s far too early in the season too get excited about taking down Oklahoma City in the playoffs. There are too many unknowns to be known along the way. But for one night, the Spurs achieved some sort of revenge on the Thunder and vanquished a few nightmares from June.

  • junierizzle

    Yes. Great win. OKC definitely not the same but still a great win. Two games in and I already like what Green and Leonard are doing. They just seem more confident. Timmy is looking spry and aggressive. Captain Jack is more controlled when taking it to the rack.

    Now we just have to see what Manu is going to do this year. Is he day-to-day?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Craig-Thomas/1541940034 Craig Thomas

    Just want to point out also the “clutchness” of Kawhi on the steal right before the game winner. That series of plays with Boris to Tony for 3, Kawhi stealing the ball from Durant, and then Tony wide open game winner was textbook Spurs. A good grind out win that was a picture of how to close out a game. Great win!

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Pretty much day-to-day. By the sounds of it, he could’ve played tonight against OKC if he absolutely needed to: http://www.48minutesofhell.com/pregaming-spurs-vs-thunder

  • junierizzle

    Cool. Thanks for the update.

  • assistman

    1) Tony Parker, clutch shooter.

    This is the new and improved TP we have been waiting for for at least 5 years. Keep it up, and we will have full season free of any “trade Parker” cries.

    2) Sometimes you get the win, and sometimes the other team just gives it up. It has been both in each of our first two games. Though NO and OKC both wanted the win, and the Spurs were just as smart and composed down the final stretch as ever, neither opponent was at their best, and allowed the Spurs to escape with a pair of W’s. Love the W’s, all the same.

    3) Leonard’s gambling defense is giving me a lot to cheer about, even if his shooting has not.

  • Bry

    Splitter barely played, and Manu never even suited up. OKC had every single player and Martin got big minutes (32+). That’s encouraging. People keep saying the Spurs are old, and talk about their window closing. Basically, Duncan is old (but judging by the last couple of games, still very effective) and Ginobili is out half the time with injuries. But, that’s it. That’s not an old team; that’s a team with a total of two old players. Duncan played last night on the back end of a B2B and still gave Ibaka (he of the 2nd place finish in DPY voting) fits. I don’t know how anybody could think that the Spurs would win less than 55 games this year. I mean, for perspective, this game was the 2nd in 2 nights, with a red-eye flight back to SA, with Ginobili in street clothes, the 3-ball bricking, against the conference darlings, and Splitter having one of his worst games. Now imagine how they’ll be healthy, well-rested, and at their normal level. NMH.

  • Caui sounds better than kahwi

    Adding to what you wrote: I think Diaw played great offensively, and that Danny (while he played a great game) jumped on every ball fake out there. I kinda feel like the Spurs are going to be great this year… PS: I love you, Timmy.

  • Merkin

    Since when did Parker become a 3-point shooting sniper.
    Kawhi’s first quarter picked up off of the 3rd quarter in N.O., but the next evolution in his game will be more consistency on the offensive end. Technically, he’s still a rookie (if 82 games played is the standard) so right now he just needs to worry about being consistent on D.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Let’s be honest with ourselves the time Diaw and Blair were on the court those two got ate up in the lane. Durant scored any which way he felt like. Those 35 minutes Diaw wasted didn’t impress me on the defensive side. Sure anybody can score 10 points in 35 minutes and Blair matches Splitter’s 2 points in double the time he spent on the floor not to mention he was mistake and turnover prone. Lucky Timmy came back in and Blair was sat down but what surprised me was Diaw going the rest of the way. How stupid. If it wasn’t for Parker’s all-star performance and Kawhi the “real next Ginobili” I don’t think we’d be 2-0. And what’s with +/- King? Damn give those 8 minutes to Splitter shit he needs it. Enjoyed the last few minutes but shouldn’t have come to that.

  • jacob

    Please post about DUNCAN’s return to the block! The Spurs are being intentional at throwing Timmy the ball on the block and letting him do work.

  • Spurholic

    Just the second game and so much drama. Think it was important for the Spurs to get this win after four consecutive “L” against OKC. A much needed confidence booster, for the returning cast of the Spurs, if it was ever required. Just a wish, “Free Patty”, for all the scoring efficiency of Gary Neal, he is not a natural PG. So please join me in ” Free Patty” campaign, hope Coach reads and adjusts!

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  • Len

    Not to take away from an amazing Spurs win, but us fans need some perspective on this DJB situation. How about an article about it as it will clearly become worse if Pop keeps this rotation.

  • TD BestEVER

    Sorry I have been away for so long but I can see my old friend Title is still on his Splitter as GOAT kick…….. Splitter played poorly and didn’t deserve any more minutes or did you not see the 3 fouls in four minutes….. if he had played anymore OKC would have lived in the bonus and he would have fouled out…… FACE it Splitter plays well vs POOR competition…… HE got ate up last year in the Con. Finals and got ate alive again last night…….Blair/Diaw isn’t the best combo, but Blair/Duncan is better than Splitter/Duncan for the Spurs as far as Im concerned

  • Bry

    C’mon, Title. You like Splitter. We get it. But, after he has his worst game in recent memory is probably not the time to sing his praises. Everybody has an off game, and this was definitely one for Tiago. He’ll bounce back; I’m sure. And why do people act as if Kevin Durant is the measuring stick of power forwards?? He destroys everybody in the league. And he’s even more brutal when he gets a PF matched up on him instead of a SF. NOBODY has been able to shut him down during his last three years of scoring titles. Nobody. Not Lebron and Bosh, not Gasol and Artest, not Marion and Nowitzki. And, not to be redundant, but look at the advantages that OKC had! The Spurs played the night before (down to the wire) and flew a red-eye. OKC didn’t. Duncan logged 35 minutes while his backup, Splitter, got into instant foul trouble and barely played. Martin played 32 minutes and hit 3 triples, and Manu Ginobili wore a suit and tie. Apart from the game being in SA, OKC had every advantage (along with that horrific call on Jackson that gifted Westbrook two freethrows late in the game). And the Spurs walked away with the victory. Let’s enjoy the moment, man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183770625 Jon Richey

    Anyone who thinks that this game doesn’t matter didn’t closely inspect the Thunders faces right after the game was over. They looked demoralized and I think i know why. Losing this game in this manner right after the Harden trade might have them questioning whether they are the same team that made it to finals and the answer is no. They are still excellent and they will be ok, but I loved the looks on there faces. They know the Spurs can beat them in a 7 game series.

  • junierizzle

    Id love to but he looked pretty raw against the Hornets.

  • junierizzle

    Blair should always play….at least against OKC. He plays very well agaisnt them.

  • Graham

    Gary Neal at PG becomes pretty much a non-issue once Manu is back in the lineup

  • Titletown99030507d

    I see your back with the same old shit. Blair needs to gooooooooooo! As well as Bonner. Can’t get better if you don’t play. Right?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Uh No.

  • Titletown99030507d

    When Blair is in with Timmy he let’s Timmy do all the shot blocking and rebounding at least Tiago tries to do his part in the paint. Whether he gets burned or not. And no Blair will never have an outside shot that’s just ridikalus like Charles says. What business does he have wasting an offensive opportunity throwing something up that doesn’t remotely resemble a shot. Clang!

  • Titletown99030507d

    He didn’t impress me last night with those 10 1/2 minutes he played.

  • Titletown99030507d

    So this is the year everybody loves Blair again? Can’t change the stripes on a Zebra. What’s the point? He won’t play in the playoffs this year as well. Oh wait a minute does the genius sarcastic stuffy coach think he’s better now?

  • DorieStreet

    Kawhi got to 5 and 4 fouls in first two games, so we probably are looking at him fouling out 2-3 times this season until he anticipates better in his drives to the rim (avoiding charges)–and when his prowess at stealing gets around the league will get him an extra pickpocket instead of a whistle from the officials—or he could get much better at it!

  • DorieStreet

    Spurs outrebounded 48-39 -Durant and Westbrook had 14 and 9, respectively.
    Blair probably gets significant time in next 2 games (@Jazz, Pacers).

  • DorieStreet

    All the cast is back for the 48MOH ‘reality show’.
    Seriously– I hope Tiago can get this season in without the nagging injuries that seem to stop him from getting in a groove on the court for a good number of games.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Craig-Thomas/1541940034 Craig Thomas

    Splitter was god awful last night except for his one finish around the rim, I believe it was off the pick and roll. He got dominated by Hasheem Thabeet of all people (the same guy who Blair destroyed in college) on a rebound, he showed off his great hands by dropping or fumbling easy passes, and once again, he got in foul trouble almost instantaneously. If Splitter is not getting nagging injuries, he’s being useless/a detriment in the game as shown last night. I am still waiting on Splitter to show the Spurs why he deserves any more than $6 mil a year next season. Thus far, he hasn’t done anything to prove why he’s worth the money.

  • Len

    I don’t think that’s quite true. The Spurs want Neal to bring the ball up court and then pass it off to Manu to get into their set. It’s only when Neal is having major troubles do the Spurs concede and get Manu to do it.

  • STIJL

    “Teams will eventually adjust to this and that’s fine. It will simply
    make it a little tougher for them to play effective offense without
    Leonard getting his hands on passes and dribbles.”

    This is huge for the Spurs. Last year they ranked 10th/11th depending on site in team defense. Kawhi’s use in the defensive scheme should help the Spurs improve in overall defense because opponents will have to compensate for his presence. In this, team mates on the court will be less burdened in their defensive posturing while also limiting opponents from operating with offensive efficiency.

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