Shoot-In At The Mostly Kinda Crappy Corral
San Antonio 88, Oklahoma City 94
Dreams of 81-1 are dead. So be it.
The Spurs were (obviously) going to lose again, and last night’s game was a prime candidate: playing a very good team on the road the night before a holiday after reeling off 11 straight wins.
The game itself was disjointed and messy, if not entertaining (by virtue of being close throughout). Russell Westbrook had a nightmare of a game (as he often does against the Spurs), shooting 2 for 16. Yes, you read that correctly. Kevin Durant was pretty ordinary in the way that a “2nd Best Player in the World” can be, meaning he was still quite good, just not lethal. No, the majority of the damage came from Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson, both of whom went on personal double digit scoring runs. Serge started the 3rd quarter scoring 10 straight points, and Jackson started the 4th doing close to the same. Those two little spurts killed the Spurs, and they never got all the way back.
And what of the Spurs? Parker played perhaps his worst game of the season. He was 6-16 from the floor, but it was more his overall floor game was just lacking. He is incredibly consistent, so he is allowed poor nights, but he seemed to have blinders on, missing the correct passes, having the ball stick in his hands, driving without a safety valve, and then missing shots he usually makes. Duncan continued his offensive woes. I’m pretty sure the team missed 34 lay-ups right at the rim (all numbers approximate). Ibaka is a hell of a rim protector, but a bunch of those misses were shooting 2 foot shots 1 1/2 feet. It happens.
Kawhi might have played his best game of the season and his worst game of the season. His defense on Durant was spectacular, and his help defense was also amazing. He created so many loose balls and turnovers and fast break opportunities. And then he missed the layups on the other end. Or he missed his 10 foot pull up shot. Or rimmed out a 3-pointer. He shot 6 for 18, but the Spurs aren’t even in the game without him. Late in the first half I started referring to him in my head as “Big Game Kawhi”, because he was looking like the NBA Finals version of himself (and because I was alone at 1 in the morning and a bit loopy). He always steps into the moment, meeting every challenge head on. Playing against Durant (and LeBron) fuels him in an egoless way, which is amazing. But his shooting is in a slump, as well, and until he finds some sort of offensive flow, he’s going to be up and down. These are the growing pains we knew were coming and we’re happy to work through, because we’ve seen what he can do when the lights are the brightest.
I encourage you NOT to look at the box score (I won’t even link to it), but I’ll summarize the numbers for you: 36-92 overall for 39.1%. 7-27 from 3 for 26%. I’ll take 92 shots any day and live with the results (particularly as the Thunder only got 84 shots). And most of those 3s were wide open. On any other night, this team will make at least 4-5 more of those, and this game is a blow out in the other direction. The offense still didn’t look that good, we missed a ton of shots, and we were still down 3 with 4 minutes to play. On the road against this team, you’ll take that.
Most importantly, perhaps, is the defense was still very good. Save for those two little individual runs, we limited what they wanted to do, and we minimized the impact of their two best players. Losses happen. Now Pop has something to get on the team about, which he probably secretly loves. The regular season is a process for this group, not a series of results.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, eat too much amazing food, and wake up from your turkey coma in time for the Spurs’ tip in Orlando Friday evening.
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