Nov 2, 2012, 1:23 AM EDT
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.
Sep 15, 2014, 1:07 AM EDT
Mark Price worked with him last summer too and it had limited effect.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
“If he wanted to leave, there’s no reason to talk to him about it,” Rubio said.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Sep 14, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT
The celebration was more entertaining than most of the game.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:18 PM EDT
With the win the USA is automatically qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Lots of Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, both of whom left Brooklyn this summer in free agency.
Sep 14, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
It’s a long shot, but he’s at least got his foot in the door somewhere.
Sep 14, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Vonleh will miss all of the preseason, and his new head coach believes that will cost him an early opportunity to enter the rotation.
Sep 14, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
It was obvious that Australia threw the game against Angola to try to avoid Team USA in the tournament for as long as possible.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Hayward attended training camp, but didn’t make the final cut to be a part of the 12-man roster.
Sep 14, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Anthony can thrive in the triangle — if he moves the ball.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Serbia looks on paper to be just another speed bump between the USA and gold.
Sep 13, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Rose has averaged 5.4 points per game on 27.3 percent shooting.
Sep 13, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Grizzlies last team to make a serious run at him.
Sep 13, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Bronze was a quality finish for the defending European champions.
Sep 13, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Read the entire letter from Atlanta’s new CEO, which details plans on how he intends to change the team culture.
Sep 13, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Plenty of Boris Diaw.
Sep 13, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Anthony was very direct in his assessment of the racially insensitive remarks made by the team’s GM and ownership.
Sep 13, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Team USA has won its last three games by an average of 31 points.
Rudy Gay upset over ‘dirty play’ that caused him to suffer a fractured jaw in Team USA’s win over Lithuania
Sep 13, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
DeMarcus Cousins caught an elbow too, and the teams had to be separated once the game was over.
- USA celebrates gold medal with lots of dancing (except Derrick Rose) 8
- Too much World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving for Serbia to handle as USA wins gold easily 129-92 18
- FIBA World Cup USA vs. Serbia preview: Serbia no pushover but Americans should grab gold 4
- France beats Lithuania to win World Cup bronze 6
- Carmelo Anthony says nobody would want to play for Hawks 20
- Rudy Gay upset over ‘dirty play’ that caused him to suffer a fractured jaw in Team USA’s win over Lithuania 17
- Serbia holds off furious French comeback, wins to advance to gold medal game vs. USA 4
- Hawks GM Danny Ferry releases statement on his leave of absence, apologizes again 6