This one wasn’t quite the pasting that other teams have been forced to endure at the hands of the Thunder. But, a win is a win, and I’ll take it either way.
In the first meeting of the season between these two squads, it was the Spurs entering Chesapeake Energy Arena on a major winning streak. Their win streak was at 11 games, then was subsequently snapped as the Thunder claimed a 94-88 victory. This time, the Thunder were entering AT&T Center with an 8-game winning streak, and you already know Gregg Popovich and Co. were itching to end a fairly big winning streak themselves. This December has been a dominant one for the Thunder, as they are currently 11-1 for this month once last night’s win is factored into the equation.
The 1st quarter didn’t start off very promising, however. The Spurs were even able to claim a 5-point lead (13-8) halfway through the opening quarter. The Thunder were able to bounce back to tie the game at 21-all to end the 1st.
The 2nd quarter was when the Thunder began to pull away. Even Popovich himself was quoted as saying, “Our demise was the 2nd quarter. We gave up 40 points.” Yes. The Spurs defense went AWOL in the 2nd, and allowed the Thunder 40 points in that one quarter alone. No other quarter even saw as much as 30 scored for either team, so Popovich is right to place the blame for the loss on lack of 2nd quarter defense. It was probably the largest contributor to the Spurs’ loss, as they entered halftime with a 61-50 deficit.
The third quarter was the cruise control quarter, as the Thunder and Spurs stood toe-to-toe for the entirety of it. The Spurs only outscored the Thunder by 2 heading into the 4th, but that allowed them to cut the lead to single digits (85-76). And with the way the Thunder have been handily dispatching opponents all season, a 9-point deficit actually sparked hope for the Spurs. The Thunder’s ability to win hasn’t been the surprising part of this season. The surprising part is the level of dominance over lesser teams that the Thunder have beaten this year. A lot of Thunder games are usually decided by the beginning of the 4th quarter.
This one was anything but decided, as the Spurs opened the 4th on a 6-0 run that pulled them to within 3 of the lead (85-82). With the Spurs’ deficit at 4 following a Tiago Splitter dunk (90-86), the Thunder sparked a 6-0 run of their own to re-extend the lead to 10 (96-86). The Spurs tried as hard as they could, but after pulling within 9 on a Manu Ginobili 3-ball (106-97) with less than 2:30 to play, the Thunder ended the game on a 7-3 run that helped the Thunder claim the victory by the final score of 113-100. The win puts the Thunder’s record at 22-4 for the year, while dropping the Spurs to 21-6. The Thunder are now 2-0 for the season series, and their 22-4 record stands as the best in the NBA for either conference at this time.
Serge Ibaka got a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double that certainly contributed to the win. Russell Westbrook led all scorers to take the floor with his 31 points. Kevin Durant dropped 17, and yet was surprisingly outscored by bench player Reggie Jackson’s 21. Although to be fair, Jackson actually saw more floor time than Thabo Sefolosha or Kendrick Perkins, with over 30 minutes logged.
You knew Tim Duncan was going to get his numbers (17 points, 10 assists as the Spurs’ only double-double man.) Tony Parker was the Spurs’ leading scorer with 23. And although Marco Belinelli finished with 17 points, they all came in the first half, as Belinelli was subsequently left scoreless in the second half. Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili combined for 25 bench points for the Spurs (Diaw: 14 points, Ginobili: 11 points.)
Tonight’s game might be over before it’s even started. The Toronto Raptors come to town to try to snap the largest current home winning streak in the NBA, as the Thunder look to set a franchise record by opening with their 14th straight home victory. Although the Raptors have been playing better lately, and are seeking their 4th straight road victory for the first time in 12 seasons. Tip-off is scheduled for 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.