In what was essentially a coast-to-coast lead, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-94 in a crucial showdown in the Western Conference playoff race on Saturday night.
With the victory, the Thunder jumped to fifth in the Western Conference standings and are now 39-29 on the season with only 14 games left this season.
If I had told you Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony would combine for 34 points on 11-of-39 shooting, you would likely assume the Thunder lost against the Spurs. Surprisingly, the Thunder bench, the one that is ranked last in the NBA averaging 25.6 points per game, scored 50 points, 50 POINTS, shooting 19-of-32 on field goals.
In the first quarter, it seemed like both teams forgot how to play basketball or were still recovering from Friday night. Besides Westbrook who went 7-of-15 and shockingly got another triple-double, 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, Anthony (1-of-8 for two points) and George (4-of-16 for 11 points) had rough nights.
However, Corey Brewer, in his second start, his impact in the starting lineup was evident whether it was on offense or defense; Brewer’s better at moving and cutting off the ball than Josh Huestis, Alex Abrines, or Terrence Ferguson.
“He’s a guy when he’s involved, when he’s encouraged,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “He plays really, really well.”
In the second quarter and the rest of the game, things picked up for the Thunder and it was mostly because of the Thunder’s bench. Jerami Grant 15 points and eight rebounds, Patrick Patterson 10 points, and Abrines 11 points were instrumental in the Thunder maintaining their lead in the second quarter going into halftime at 52-43.
The Thunder managed to avoid their season theme of losing a lead in the third quarter, but they did lose Steven Adams eight points and only one rebound to a sprained ankle for the rest of the game. Adams did not return from the locker room and his status is unclear.
In the fourth quarter, the Thunder broke the game open, which led to a 21-point lead, but the Thunder cannot win easy, so things briefly got interesting for a couple of minutes late in the fourth, before Westbrook ended any fears of a potential choke job.
Nick Collison came in for some crucial minutes. The savvy veteran scored seven points in six game minutes, going 3-of-4 from the floor and grabbing two rebounds. He received MVP chants as he shot free throws in the fourth quarter. Mr. Thunder’s legend grew on tonight.
“A total pro. He comes ready to play every day,” Donovan said. “Nick keeping himself prepared and going in there he did a great job.”
The Thunder has its next two games against sub .500 as they host the Sacramento Kings on Monday night and the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. It’s the rare home-and-home back-to-back. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Brady Trantham and Erik Gee will be in arena for all your game day coverage.
Keys to the Game
Thunder Defense: A-
Overall, the Thunder played great on defense. While they lost the turnover battle 14:15, the defense whether George and Westbrook or Grant and Patterson, the Thunder’s length and speed annoyed the Spurs and resulted in many deflections. Additionally, it was evident the Thunder’s game plan was double LaMarcus Aldridge whenever he touched the ball and try to deflect the ball whenever he passed it. Aldridge struggled all night and finished with 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
Oklahoma City a fantastic job on the boards tonight. Time after time, they limited the Spurs to only one-and-done opportunities. Oklahoma City’s rebounding really has come into their own as late. Also, Oklahoma City is now a killer 28-10 when they win the rebounding battle. Considering they lost Adams for a good chunk of the second half to an ankle sprain, it’s even more impressive they won it tonight.
Only 15 turnovers for the Thunder and really, it’s “only” 15 turnovers. Oklahoma City had been averaging north of 16 turnovers since the all-star break, so to bring it under that was a job well done. Westbrook and George had nine of the 15, which leads you show the rest of the team did a great job taking care of the ball tonight.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!