Apr 3, 2014, 11:24 PM EDT
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.
Sep 18, 2014, 10:46 PM EDT
Pietrus sat out all of last season.
Sep 18, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
Looks like Bucks head coach Jason Kidd is serious about making Antetokounmpo into a point guard.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT
This will take some getting used to.
Sep 18, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT
Sep 18, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Isn’t Harden the beard guru?
Sep 18, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT
I like the idea of calling him “scrappy feet” better.
Sep 18, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
Chicago will likely start Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol
Sep 18, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT
Expect Rubio to be a restricted free agent next summer, and he may not enjoy that experience.
Sep 18, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT
Knicks star said nobody wants to play for Atlanta
Sep 18, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
After a year at point guard, Oladipo should thrive for Magic this season
Sep 18, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Dirk’s not bad on guitar.
Sep 18, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Not an expected pairing, but they can relate
Sep 18, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Spurs coach seeking sources of motivation so his team won’t repeat the letdown
Sep 18, 2014, 12:18 PM EDT
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski defends himself after Adrian Wojnarowski paints him as opportunistic recruiter
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How much longer will NBA keep pushing them?
Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
After signing Glenn Robinson III, Minnesota has too many guaranteed contracts
Sep 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Sep 18, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Last season, Celtics traded Crawford to Warriors, who were unsatisfied with his play
Sep 18, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Bulls center didn’t fare quite as well at White Sox game
Sep 18, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
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