Got You Where I Want You | Oklahoma City 106, San Antonio 94
In a game that was almost certainly a “Schedule Loss” well before the 19-game win streak dominated the narrative, we should not put much stock in the actual outcome of last night’s game. Pop certainly doesn’t. In fact, no one is happier than him that his team lost. Let’s play a little “Good Cop/Bad Cop” for the recap:
Good Cop: The most important question going into last night’s game: Can Kawhi Leonard effectively defend Durant? The resounding answer: Yes. He played him really well, covering up his drives to the hoop while still contesting all jump shots. Durant finished with 28 points, but it took 26 shots, and a good chunk of those points came against other defenders. In a game in which the Spurs lost by 12, Kawhi had the only +/- of the regular rotation players that wasn’t negative. It was 0 in 29 minutes of game time, mostly against Durant.
Bad Cop: With Leonard off the floor in 19 minutes, OKC outscored San Antonio by 12 and more or less dominated the game. The Spurs need Leonard to be able to stay on the floor, which means no silly fouls. He picked up 2 really dumb fouls (one fouling Durant on a drive, the other a questionable offensive foul) that limited his second half minutes and set the stage for OKC to take control of the game. Also, everybody else needs to play better.
Good Cop: It was the Spurs 5th game in 7 nights, and OKC’s first in four. There was a preparedness disparity and an energy differential. Cut the Spurs a ton of slack. The team played very well in the first half and kind of ran out of gas in the second. OKC was clearly keyed up for this game, and looked as fresh and lively as any team can look at this point in the season. Given a level playing field with time to prepare and rest, this game would be a lot different. You know, like the playoffs.
Bad Cop: Still, OKC swept the season series, has won 6 of 8 against us, and kind of owns us a bit. No team in the league (not even the Heat) can disrupt our offense like OKC, nor puts as much pressure on our defense. It really is the team’s worst match-up in the entire league. Were the teams to meet in the playoffs, regardless of seed, OKC should be favored.
Good Cop: Manu didn’t play, and he really is the keystone that holds our entire bench unit in place and makes it work.
Bad Cop: OKC’s bench is pretty good, and full of players that have career games exclusively against the Spurs. With a healthy Manu, I think our bench still gets the edge, but it’s not the disparity that it is against most opponents. Which puts more pressure on the starters, where the teams are also pretty even.
Good Cop: Everybody please stop talking about 2011. These are very different teams. Leonard, Green, and Splitter, in particular, weren’t ready for that series. Last year’s run and this season have changed that. Diaw is playing better; Belinelli and Mills are better than any other option we had on our bench in 2011. James Harden completely wrecked us; he’s gone. This Spurs team is a lot better than that team.
Bad Cop: True. Durant and Westbrook are also significantly better. Harden excepted, this team has been together a long time, like the Spurs, and play very well together. The teams are different; but both are better.
Good Cop: Besides, Pop secretly waved the white flag in last night’s game with about 3 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. He didn’t even try to come back.
Bad Cop: Because he had to.
Good Cop: Shut up, Bad Cop.
Up next, the Grizzlies come to town on Sunday. This game is more important than Thursday’s, mostly to see how the team responds to the loss and the end of the streak. I expect a very focused and sharp team. The Grizzlies are playing for their playoff lives, so this should be hard-fought game.
The bottom of the West is shaping up to be a 3 team race for 2 playoff spots. Memphis, Dallas, and Phoenix all have the same record; 2 of those teams will get in; 1 will not. 1 of them will certainly be the Spurs’ first round opponent. The Spurs play all 3 in the coming week. The end of the regular season is going to be bonkers in the West.
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