Season 50, Game 64
San Antonio 92, Oklahoma City 102
50-14, 2nd in the West
The Spurs were due a loss. After flirting with one for the last two weeks but always escaping with the win, the L was coming for them sooner rather than later. In the wake of Wednesday’s huge comeback win, Thursday’s back-to-back in Oklahoma City was the perfect spot for the loss.
It’s fine. I expected to lose that game. The Spurs are still 9-1 in their last 10 games and still moving in the right direction. The Thunder had lost 4 in a row and were hungry for a win. Sometimes it’s that simple: motivation, rest, location. Those three things can tell you a lot about the outcome of a game.
Pop was clearly playing with a different set of priorities. He spread the minutes around, and tried out some new combinations. The game was likely lost at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, when the Spurs trotted out Forbes, Murray, and Dedmon together for several minutes. That’s a lot of inexperience and lack of corporate knowledge in one lineup. Most teams make their move against the Thunder when Westbrook sits (usually the start of the 2nd and 4th quarters, respectively); the Spurs lost ground both times.
Credit the Thunder, though; they played great. A team not known for their shooting made their shots. And even without Durant, they continued to give the Spurs fits with their size and aggressive offensive rebounding and general rough and tumble interior play. The team is flawed, but it would be a very difficult first round match-up.
While the loss is of little importance, there are a few things that are more concerning long-term. The first of this is most obvious: Kawhi Leonard’s health. Concussions are serious business. What can appear minor or incidental can linger for weeks. Often, even when players come back from concussions, the effects can wreak havoc on their attention, focus, and overall ability to play at a top level. The Spurs can ill afford a concussion to adversely affect Leonard for days, let alone weeks. Here’s hoping it’s minor.
Beyond that, the depressed play of a few role players continues to cause worry. Mostly Dedmon and Simmons. After moving to the starting lineup and having an impressive few weeks stretch, Dedmon has been a complete non-factor in most recent games. His energy, defense, and rim running have been average to ineffectual, and he’s had almost zero impact plays. This leaves a big hole in the starting lineup. I still like Gasol off the bench, and Lee works better off the bench, too. I don’t know if there’s a good answer other than letting Dedmon play through it and hopefully figure it out.
Simmons also seems off since the All-Star break. He routinely seems to make the wrong decision on when to drive, shoot, or pass. His drives to the rim have been less effective, he’s been a bit careless with the ball, and his minutes have not been very productive. He seems hesitant and lacking in confidence on the court. After usurping Anderson’s spot in the lineup, the team can’t afford for him to regress. Backing up Kawhi isn’t big minutes, but it’s important minutes.
Still, the Spurs are sitting in a great position. The Warriors are reeling, and that 1-seed is there for the taking. Golden State comes to town Saturday night for a hugely important game. Kawhi isn’t playing. On the other side, Curry, Thompson, Green, and Iguodola are all sitting, and Durant is still out with injury. Has a game with such impact ever been played with less impactful rosters?
The Spurs have a golden opportunity to get a win and move into a virtual tie with the Warriors for the top spot (though the Warriors would still technically hold it). Here’s hoping they seize that opportunity.
Go Spurs Go.