Skip to content

Tony Parker’s clutch buckets late help Spurs take down the Thunder

Nov 2, 2012, 1:23 AM EDT

Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Serge Ibaka

This was a game the Thunder could have won, and watching how the last few possessions played out, it’s one the Thunder should have won. But in the end, San Antonio had the execution that Oklahoma City did not, and the Spurs came away with a buzzer-beating 86-84 win over the Thunder to give them their second win in as many nights to open the 2012 season.

This was a close game that went back and forth all night, but it wasn’t a particularly well-played one. The teams combined for 31 turnovers, and the Spurs’ 44.3 percent shooting seemed high compared to the 37.7 percent that OKC posted.

A lot of the Thunder’s problems offensively can be traced directly to Russell Westbrook, whose shot selection was atrocious for most of the night, and yet despite rarely connecting, he kept on firing — 21 times, the most from any player on either team. Westbrook hit on only six of those shots, which came mainly on his patented pull-up jumpers from mid-range, while seemingly not even considering time left on the shot clock or the overall game situation.

Westbrook is a double-edged sword, however, because on nights like this one, he’s typically the only one on the team making a point of being aggressive. The rest of the Thunder looked largely passive for most of the game, playing at a slower overall tempo which played right into the Spurs’ hands.

Oklahoma City debuted its sixth-man replacement for James Harden in this one, and got a decent performance from Kevin Martin, who scored 15 points off the bench, and chipped in five assists in his 32 minutes of action. It’ll take some time for Martin to learn where to go on the court to get the easiest looks, and of course, he’ll need to adjust to playing with his new teammates. But he can definitely score, so as the season progresses, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his offensive numbers surpass even those of Harden’s.

But while Martin is a scorer, Harden is a better overall playmaker. And with that second unit, OKC will need to have someone step into that role to be successful — over time, maybe that’ll be Eric Maynor. But it isn’t likely to be Martin.

On the Spurs’ side of things, San Antonio got a lot of positive contributions from a lot of guys you don’t necessarily expect them from. And isn’t that just like them? Kawhi Leonard did an excellent job defensively on Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan played big on the second night of a back-to-back, and Tony Parker drained the shots that mattered down the stretch for the second straight night. Danny Green hit timely shots from three-point distance, and Gary Neal came in and got buckets efficiently in limited minutes.

This game had wild swings both ways, with the Thunder leading by as many as eight, and the Spurs leading by as many as 10. But it came down to the final few possessions, and the Spurs were supremely prepared to execute while the Thunder couldn’t get out of their own way. Let’s review:

– OKC led by three with 1:02 remaining. They had a chance at converting an alley-oop, but Westbrook should have known he was too close to the rim to convert it, and should have simply caught the ball and come down with it instead of forcing the shot attempt. It was a quick possession for the Thunder when they didn’t need one, and the Spurs immediately responded.

– On the ensuing possession, Boris Diaw found himself under the basket and nearly falling out of bounds along the baseline, but gathered himself enough to kick the ball out to Parker up top, who drained an open three-pointer to tie the game at 84. It was a classic Spurs possession in the sense that once the defense collapsed and things seemed to break down, someone made the heady play to find the open man, who calmly knocked down the shot.

– No problem for the Thunder now, theoretically. Kevin Durant is among the game’s purest scorers, so get the ball into his hands and let him go to work. Except, you have to actually get the ball into his hands. The Thunder failed in this regard, because as Durant flashed to get the ball (somewhat lackadaisically), Leonard was able to head off the pass and get the steal. It wasn’t all on Westbrook for making a poor read on the pass, because Durant should have showed a little harder and sealed his defender. But it was a blown opportunity for the Thunder nevertheless.

– This brings us to the final possession. Watch it again for yourself, but it appears that Westbrook had no intention of guarding anybody during this play — either that, or he got completely lost. Parker creeps along the baseline, then curls out to the wing to receive the pass, while Westbrook casually heads to the middle of the paint for no apparent reason. Big-time shot from Parker to be sure, but you can’t tell me that the Thunder did all they could defensively to prevent that wide-open look.

This one came down to execution; once the season is finished, should these two teams meet again, things will likely end up differently. But at this early stage of the season, with the veteran crew the Spurs have in place, and with one of the best in the game running the show there in Gregg Popovich, the fact that San Antonio was able to get the win the way that they did shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Pistons signing Eric Griffin

    Sep 1, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    Griffin will give Pistons 19 players, 17 with guaranteed salaries

  2. LeBron James: Championship not a requirement of a great team

    Sep 1, 2015, 10:07 PM EDT

    LeBron James AP

    LeBron indicates 1999-00 Trail Blazers were great, implies something about his own career

  3. Erik Spoelstra: Heat’s starting lineup needs time before it’ll succeed

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside look pretty good on paper

  4. Wizards expect Tomas Satoransky to join them in summer of 2016

    Sep 1, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Olympiacos Piraeus - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Off Getty Images

    He’s a 6’7″ combo guard with a lot of potential

  5. Will Miami make a run at Kevin Durant?

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT

    Kevin Durant AP

    Miami is a long shot to land him, but you can bet Pat Riley will have them positioned for a run.

  6. Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson does his imitation of Kobe’s shot

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:19 PM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Lots of pump fakes. Lots and lots of pump fakes.

  7. Kings name Vlade Divac GM, Peja Stojakovic director of player development

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Vlade Divac Vlade Divac

    Stojakovic had been rumored for several weeks to be joining the Kings.

  8. Dwyane Wade playing dodgeball? We’ve got that (VIDEO).

    Sep 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    wade Getty Images

    Wade would make Patches O’Houlihan proud.

  9. Report: Celtics engaged in contract extension talks with Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger

    Sep 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    If I were a betting man, I’d expect there’s a better than 50/50 chance a Zeller deal gets done.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (2823)
  2. K. Irving (2285)
  3. A. Davis (1938)
  4. K. Bryant (1583)
  5. L. James (1483)
  1. K. Durant (1345)
  2. T. Thompson (1306)
  3. B. Jennings (1283)
  4. M. Leonard (1193)
  5. A. Aminu (1170)