The Margin: Oklahoma City Thunder 107, San Antonio Spurs 93
I didn’t get to watch this game quite as closely as I’d liked to last night, so I’m going to go with The Margin format for today’s recap. For those not in the know, The Margin is one bullet point for every point in the difference in the score, as made famous by Rob Mahoney. The Thunder beat the Spurs by 14 points last night, so you get 14 bullet points.
- Serge Ibaka was the star performer for the Thunder last night, scoring 25 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking three shots. Ibaka started out the game shooting something like 6-6 in the first quarter and didn’t slow down much from there, the majority of his early baskets coming from the midrange. It was eerily similar to his performance in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. According to Hoopdata, the Thunder shot 52.7% from 16-23 feet on Monday night, well over the 41.7% the Spurs are allowing on the season. Sometimes the shots fall.
- With Russell Westbrook on him early, the Spurs used Tony Parker off the ball a lot in the first quarter. Parker ran Westbrook from corner to corner through as many screens as the Spurs could get in there. At the time it was effective, the Thunder defense seemed pretty amped to play the Spurs and did a lot of over-pursuing, which opened up some easy shots. As the game wore on and the adrenaline subsided, the OKC defense became a little more disciplined.
- The return of Stephen Jackson to the lineup didn’t help on the rebounding as much as one would hope. Watching the game it was obvious why they missed him, there were several times where Tiago Splitter or one of the bigs would have to close out on a shooter and the other big was occupied with blocking out a man. Jack was aggressive in crashing the boards and helping out. On the night he had four boards. However, the Spurs still allowed 15 offensive rebounds to the Thunder, in part because starting big men Splitter and Tim Duncan combined for just eight rebounds, while the Thunder bigs combined for 21 (17, of course, by Ibaka).
- With Westbrook and Kevin Durant combining to shoot 12-31 from the field, the Spurs missed a golden opportunity to capitalize on what you could deem a “meh” night from the Thunder’s two stars. But with Ibaka’s performance and Kevin Martin coming off the bench to score 20 points on 7-10 shooting, the Thunder kept themselves from getting in a first half hole as they waited for their stars to really assert themselves.
- Besides limiting offensive rebounds, another area where the Spurs have struggled this season is in the turnover department. 17 against the Thunder doesn’t do much to change that trend.
- The third quarter was really where this game got away from the Spurs. Oklahoma City ended the period on a 22-8 run that signaled the end of the evening for the Spurs starters, except…
- The Spurs bench almost got them back in it. In the fourth quarter, down 13 points, the San Antonio reserves almost made a game of it. First DeJuan Blair got matched up with Durant out on the perimeter by mistake, and somehow picked Durant’s pocket. Nando De Colo picked up the loose ball and shielded Russell Westbrook well on the layup. On the next possession, James Anderson picked up an errant pass and raced ahead for a fastbreak dunk, cutting the Thunder lead to nine points. Unfortunately for the Spurs, they lost track of Kevin Martin on the perimeter and he sunk an open 3 to get the Thunder lead back to 12 and effectively kill of the game. As Bill Land said on the telecast, at that point it looked like the Spurs bench was getting tired and on cue they gave up the 3. I’m curious if they could’ve gotten one more stop whether Pop would’ve called the timeout to give his bench some rest and stayed with them, or gone back to the starters. I’m guessing he would’ve stayed with the bench, much like how he did against the Dallas Mavericks last year. It should also be noted that this run by the Spurs bench was coming against the Thunder starters, who were trying to put the game out of reach as quickly as possible.
- Another reason why Pop probably would’ve stayed with the bench is because the Spurs play tonight in Denver against the Nuggets.
- Another good night for Nando De Colo. He finished the game with 14 points on 6-9 shooting and six assists. He even had a dunk in the first half on a breakaway and scored in the low post. How his season unfolds is one of the things I’m most excited to watch over the next four months or so.
- The Spurs starters had a -24.6 net rating on the night. Ugh.
- Oklahoma City shot nine more free throws than the Spurs did. You would think that meant the Spurs committed far more fouls then the Thunder, but that’s not the case. OKC actually committed 21 fouls to the Spurs’ 19. The Thunder just happened to get a lot of their fouls out of the way early in the game.
- 12 Spurs played at least 12 minutes on the night. Only eight Thunder players logged more than 11 minutes. OKC was in a playoff rotation on Monday night.
- After starting out 11-2 on the road, the Spurs have lost three straight away from the AT&T Center. Luckily enough, they get a chance to stop that skid tonight against the Nuggets. Gary Neal played the most minutes on the team against the Thunder with just over 28, so the team should be in decent condition in Denver.
- If I remember right, Bill Land said before the game that Kawhi Leonard should play tonight against the Nuggets. That should provide some fairly fresh legs, at least early on before fatigue sets in. Nonetheless, it will be good seeing him out there again.
Lineup data courtesy of NBA.com/Stats