Apr 3, 2014, 11:24 PM EST
The Spurs entered Thursday night’s contest against the Thunder with the best record in the league, a four-game lead over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings, and a 19-game winning streak.
The best record part remains, but the Thunder put together a complete effort, especially defensively, to close the gap in the standings and deal San Antonio a very rare loss.
OKC earned every bit of its 106-94 victory over the Spurs, and is unquestionably going to be the biggest hurdle in the way of San Antonio making a return trip to the NBA Finals. But there were factors in play that negatively affected the Spurs’ chances in this one.
San Antonio was playing on the second night of a back-to-back set, a challenge faced consistently by every team in the league over the course of the season. But for the Spurs, that usually means getting some of their veteran players some rest, and Manu Ginobili — a legitimate candidate for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award this season — sat this one out for that very reason.
It also meant that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker sat out the entire fourth quarter when the game was anything but over, with the Thunder lead hovering in the low double digits for most of the period but was just eight points with under six minutes remaining.
All of that aside, this was an impressive win for Oklahoma City. They swarmed the Spurs defensively, especially in a blistering third quarter where they held San Antonio to 30.4 percent shooting, while turning a five-point deficit into a nine-point lead before the period was finished.
Kevin Durant had an off night shooting by his standards, finishing just 11-of-26 from the field for 28 points. That was good enough to keep his streak of scoring at least 25 points intact, one that seems like an arbitrary marker but has now reached 39 consecutive games. According to ESPN Stats & Info, only Michael Jordan (40), Oscar Robertson (46) and Wilt Chamberlain (80) have longer career scoring streaks.
On the Spurs side (and even for the Thunder, to a certain extent), it’s no longer about wins and losses these last two weeks of the regular season. Gregg Popovich was shown on the telecast telling his team in a timeout huddle that winning this particular game didn’t matter, but instead the team needed to focus on playing the right way, and doing so with the maximum amount of energy.
As good as the Spurs have been, however, and no matter who was and was not in the San Antonio lineup at various points this season, the Thunder have been the one team that has consistently shut them down. Oklahoma City improved to 4-0 on the season against San Antonio with this victory, and that’s something that will undoubtedly weigh upon Popovich if the Spurs should have the misfortune of meeting the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:05 AM EST
James Harden and Dwyane Wade broke the 40 point barrier.
Dec 18, 2014, 1:31 AM EST
Another fine defensive moment from James Harden.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:54 AM EST
I can’t wait until the Western Conference playoffs.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:46 PM EST
He walked off under his own power but did not return.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EST
Rockets, Kings and Knicks also reportedly inquiring about Celtics point guard
Dec 17, 2014, 10:25 PM EST
In related news, Hornets got a ton of public funding to upgrade arena
Dec 17, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
Rapper dubs Kyle Lowry ‘baby-faced assassin’
Dec 17, 2014, 8:35 PM EST
Trail Blazers guard would be a perfect fit in Cleveland
Dec 17, 2014, 7:39 PM EST
The offers are not going to be big, will Stan Van Gundy eventually give in and take one?
Dec 17, 2014, 6:18 PM EST
He is more likely to be moved than Rondo.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
There are no good answers for the Bucks, or for other rookies to reward.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:06 PM EST
More serious talks doesn’t mean a deal is near.
Dec 17, 2014, 4:03 PM EST
The Kings roster is poorly suited right now for the style the owner wants to play.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:12 PM EST
Blazers fans will get to see more Chris Kaman.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Portland also reportedly tried to trade for Monroe before he signed the one-year qualifying offer to stay in Detroit.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:50 PM EST
Former Baylor University center was expected to be drafted, but was diagnosed with a disease that prematurely ended his chances of playing in the NBA.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:10 PM EST
Wade has a reputation of being a flopper, and appeared to exaggerate the contact from the official.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
He pities ‘Melo because a real competitor is suffering through a lot of losing.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:50 AM EST
Love is suffering from the dreaded flu-like symptoms.
Warriors’ Andre Iguodala hilariously mocks referee for not calling a blatant travel, picks up technical foul (VIDEO)
Dec 17, 2014, 11:10 AM EST
Iggy does the Travel Dance.
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