It was another blown lead by the Oklahoma City Thunder as they drop a 104-101 loss to the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday night.
It is something Thunder fans have become way too familiar with early this season: Thunder start strong, gain a big lead, then spend the rest of the game playing undisciplined and end up losing a game they should have won. Oklahoma City found themselves up by as much as 23 points in the first half, but answered that strong early play reverting back to iso ball, and lack of effort on the defensive end.
Oklahoma City began the game holding the Spurs to just 15 points in the first quarter, but the defense broke down midway through the second quarter. The Thunder gave up 89 points in the next three quarters, giving up plenty of offensive boards and wide open three-pointers.
San Antonio hit 14 total three-pointers tonight, shooting 40 percent from deep. They also out-rebounded Oklahoma City, as well shot better from the charity stripe.
Oklahoma City built their early lead off of Spurs first quarter turnovers, turning the ball over seven times in the first 12 minutes of the game. After that first half, the Spurs cleaned it up. They only turned it over four times in the second half and the Thunder just couldn’t hold off the comeback any longer.
Thunder did build a big lead, but it was very early. The Spurs were back within single-digits before halftime, and the second half was pretty much back and forth the whole way.
Billy Donovan was asked about the great start, and then letting the Spurs back into the game, “Obviously we got off to a great start, but playing on the road you know the home team was going to make a run” Donovan said. “I didn’t think that was going to continue or maintain for the whole game,” he continued.
Billy went on to talk about how the Thunder did not close the first half well, and it was a back and forth battle from there on out, and a game of runs the whole second half.
It wasn’t a great night shooting wise from Thunder’s big three, but Russell Westbrook was especially bad. He hit only five of his 22 attempts from the field, at one point missing 11 shots in a row. He was frustrated much of the night, and when he struggles like this, it will most likely result in a loss for Oklahoma City. He finished with just 15 points.
Paul George also struggled offensively, hitting only five of his 16 field goal attempts for 18 points.
Carmelo was far and away the best offensively tonight, putting up a team-high 20 points on nine for 17 shooting from the floor.
Even though their was plenty of iso ball, the Thunder moved the basketball pretty well for the most part except for in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City continues to revert to old habits in crunch time. As the season goes on, hopefully that is something the Thunder can avoid.
Oklahoma City had plenty of chances late to tie this one up. After missing two three pointers that were open looks, Carmelo hit a shot that was initially ruled a three-pointer, but was just a long two after the review.
Still, after Spurs hit a couple free throws, Oklahoma City had one more chance. The Thunder tried to get a look from deep but ran a very ugly inbounds play that ended up with Westbrook heaving the ball with one hand towards the basket.
Late game execution continues to be a thorn in Thunder’s side, and something they will need to be working on continuously up till playoff time in April.
For the Spurs, it was a total team effort, as everyone chipped in offensively. They were once again without their superstar in Kawhi Leonard, which makes this win even more impressive for San Antonio.
Guys like Danny Green, Manu, and Davis Bertans hit big shots from long distance all game long. Aldridge also did his part, putting up a game-high 26 points along with a few key offensive rebounds late in the game.
For Oklahoma City, it is the same story as it has been all season long: being able to stay focused and maintaining leads. The Thunder now have eight losses on the season, and the majority of those they had significant leads but ended up losing it at the end.
The Thunder are now once again below .500, and have a tough few games coming up, including the Golden State Warriors in just 5 days. Next up: at the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night.
Keys to the game
Lawler’s law: F
As mentioned in the pre-game, the Spurs were 7-0 this season when they put up 100 points or more. Make that 8-0 as they win tonight, with scoring 104 points. Thunder fall to 1-7 on the season when they give up 100 points or more.
Control fast break: A
Oklahoma City definitely slowed down the Spurs, holding them just nine fast break points. The Spurs made up for that by protecting the ball in the second half, and getting plenty of second chances off the offensive glass.
Get to the line: D
Oklahoma City only shot 21 free throws, compared to the Spurs’ 28 attempts. The Thunder were aggressive, but did not get to the line as much as they would have liked, and only hit 14 of their 21 attempts. This game might end differently if Oklahoma City takes advantage of the easy points.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!