It was an all-around great game from the Oklahoma City Thunder (36-29) as they defeated the San Antonio Spurs (50-14) for a huge bounce back win. Thunder snapped a four game losing streak they had heading into tonight, while Russell Westbrook made a huge statement himself in the midst of a heated MVP race. Oklahoma City beat San Antonio 102-92 on Thursday night.
Westbrook is now tied with Wilt Chamberlain for second most triple-doubles in a season, recording his 31st triple double tonight. He now just trails only Oscar Robertson, who had 41. Westbrook needs 10 more to tie, with just 17 games left this season.
Defeating the Spurs takes an overall team effort, and that is exactly what the Thunder did. The most important was the defensive effort from Oklahoma City all night long. After a 28-point first quarter for San Antonio, the Thunder locked up the rest of the way, holding the spurs to 21, 22, and 21 respectively in the next three quarters.
Oklahoma City held the Spurs to just 41 percent shooting from the floor, and just 31 percent from the three-point line.
They also caused San Antonio to commit an unusual 14 turnovers tonight, while Oklahoma City themselves only committed 11. Anytime you can commit less turnovers than the Spurs in a game, it is a huge advantage, as they are known for their low team turnover average.
Going into tonight, it was a classic battle between two of the top MVP candidates of the season, and Russell Westbrook got the last laugh. Kawhi Leonard managed to put up 19 points, but it was 15 shots, as Andre Roberson individually guarded Leonard in spectacular fashion. Roberson made Kawhi work for every single point, and was a thorn in his side all night long.
Westbrook on the other hand, had a monster night. He played one of the most controlled and smart games we’ve seen from him this season. He put up 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists. He limited his questionable shot taking, and trusted his teammates tonight as much as any game this season.
It will come down to the wire, but Westbrook made a nice statement in the MVP race against Kawhi Leonard. He will have plenty more chances for statement-making though, as Oklahoma City faces the Spurs and Houston Rockets one more time each before season end.
Oklahoma City got two things tonight that were non-existent in the four straight losses: defense as mentioned already, and shot making from their role players. The Thunder had five players in double figure scoring, including two guys that came off the bench. Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter, were huge for the second unit tonight as they put up a combined 25 points. They had 25 of the Thunder’s 34 total bench points.
Oklahoma City also got a huge night from Victor Oladipo, who now seems 100 percent healthy. He finished with 20 points and led the second unit really well at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.
Billy Donovan also made a tweak to the starting lineup, deciding to start Taj Gibson and bring Domantas Sabonis off the bench. It benefitted the team well, as Taj meshed well with the starters and Sabonis brought some nice energy plays off the bench. Sabonis also had a huge posterizing dunk on Dewayne Dedmon early in the second quarter, which sparked a nice Oklahoma City scoring run.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich seemed to wave the white flag early, as he pulled the starters midway through the fourth quarter. It also didn’t help that Kawhi seemed to have some kind of minor injury either late in the third or early in the fourth quarter. Either way, it was big for Oklahoma City to shut the door on this win early, and not let the Spurs hang around and steal it.
Tonight could be a huge momentum swing for Oklahoma City, as we reach the final stretch of the season. The Thunder needed a win like this to get back on track and continue their battle of moving up in the playoff seeding. The Thunder will look to build on this win, as they take on the Utah Jazz in a matinee game on Saturday.
Keys to the Thunder Win:
Great team effort
The Thunder won this game, mainly because they played great as a team. From the ball movement, the shot making, and the excellent defense, Oklahoma City put together one of their best performances of the season. They aren’t the most talented team in the league by any means, so the Thunder need something from everyone every night to win games like this.
Steven Adams has awoken
It was no coincidence that in the midst of this four game losing streak, Steven Adams had been playing pretty poorly on both ends. But tonight, that was not the case. He got going with a few easy buckets in the first quarter, and was insanely physical all night. He made it tough on LaMarcus Aldridge all night, while keeping many offensive possessions alive. Steven Adams is as important as anyone on this Thunder roster for this team to win on a consistent basis.
Russell Westbrook is unfair
Yep, he was that good tonight. He played maybe his most complete game of the season, against maybe the best team Oklahoma City has seen this year. He recorded his 31st triple double of the season, and he seemed to do it again with ease. The Spurs have been playing great basketball as of late, and they demand the very best from their opponent to beat them. That is exactly what we got from Westbrook tonight.