Season 51, Game 23
San Antonio 87, Oklahoma 90
15-8, 3rd in the West
The Spurs fell three points short to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, but I don’t think I recall ever seeing an 87-90 loss be more of a win.
While OKC barely saved face, the Spurs organization and their head coach looked like the smartest scientists in the laboratory on this particular night.
These types of games are always fun for me to watch, but it’s special when it happens against OKC.
Here’s a fun exercise. Let’s look at the top 5 players who led their teams in minutes last night.
Dejounte Murray: 39:29
Brandon Paul: 33:11
Bryn Forbes: 32:34
Davis Bertans: 29:26
Joffrey Lauvergne: 22:59
Russell Westbrook: 38:31
Andre Roberson: 34:25
Steven Adams: 33:18
Paul George: 33:15
Carmelo Anthony: 30:55
Now granted, this may be slightly slanted, considering Kyle Anderson went down with a knee injury and will miss 2-3 weeks, and Derrick White played most of the 4th quarter, but the point remains the same.
Now let’s look at the salaries of those individuals.
Dejounte Murray: $1.3M
Brandon Paul: $815K
Bryn Forbes: $1.3M
Davis Bertans: $1.3M
Joffrey Lauvergne: $1.5
Russell Westbrook: $28.2M
Andre Roberson: $9.2M
Steven Adams: $22.4M
Paul George: $19.3M
Carmelo Anthony: $26.2M
According to Shams Charania, the NBA Salary Cap is set at $99,093,000.
The five Thunder players alone have a combined salary that is $6 million over the cap, compared to the Spurs five which are basically $94 million under. The Thunder also rolled out 38 years of combined experience between their five cash cows.
The Spurs? Six years and a rookie.
There isn’t a ton to take away from games like these other than a few really wild stats and some good laughs at the Thunder.
Oklahoma City might have the worst fan base in all of the NBA. They practically stole that team from Seattle and with names like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden and now Carmelo Anthony and Paul George going through their revolving door, there’s no excuse for them to have not won a title. But they haven’t and they continue to act like it’s not their fault. It is and the fans are incorrigible.
Last night, the Spurs five, worth about 5 million bucks, were giving the Thunder all they could handle in the second half and you could have heard a pin drop in that arena. It wasn’t until late in the game… too late in the game… that the Thunder pulled away. Then the crowd went wild, as if they had won something.
Sure. You won something. You won a ridiculous luxury tax and a bigger local TV contract. You won Carmelo Anthony, a notorious coach killer whose kryptonite is the playoffs. You won Paul George, who is probably the least impressive superstar in the NBA. And last night, you won a game against essentially the Spurs summer league roster.
Enough about the Thunder.
The Spurs played swimmingly. It was the ugliest, most beautiful game of the entire year. They didn’t shoot well, at all, but then again, neither did the Thunder. What they did do well was rebound. And defend. And boy did they rebound and defend.
The Spurs managed to miraculously secure 39 rebounds compared to the Thunder’s 47, even though their top three rebounders were sitting on the bench with unlaced shoes. And as if they had been born to play small ball their whole life, they had 11 steals and 10 blocks. AGAINST THE OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER. AT FULL STRENGTH. IN OKLAHOMA CITY.
Maybe you say the Thunder scouted for the Spurs regulars and were thrown off their game. Sure. Maybe. But then that proves that Pop is playing chess while Billy D is playing checkers. But also, it can be simpler than that: the Thunder aren’t very good.
The Spurs face Detroit tonight in the second leg of a back-to-back on the road. The Pistons are a good team and might be worth keeping San Antonio’s players fresh.
Also, it wouldn’t shock me to see a certain small forward from Riverside, California make his season debut either, although that still may not happen.
The Spurs still sit comfortably at 15-8, good enough for 3rd in the West. Considering how many injuries they have had, it’s a pretty admirable feat in and of itself.
Lastly, I sure hope Kyle Anderson is alright. I’ve been critical of him in the past, but he’s been nothing short of magnificent this year. I hope he is just a pansy and the scream we heard from him is not an indication of the severity of the injury. Get well soon, Kyle. Kawhi is coming back soon and we want everyone to be together again.
Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki, STF/Associated Press