NBA Analysis: Spurs Continue to Surprise with 7th Straight Win


By Ryan Costello

It was the first quarter, and the San Antonio Spurs faced a 12-point deficit against the certainly younger, and seemingly hungrier Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City Arena Sunday night.

The next 1:17 was a microcosm of why exuberant youth is so often trumped by gristly experience in the NBA. George Hill converted on a pair of free throws, and two possessions later passed to a wide open Matt Bonner, who hit the first of a volley of three-pointers as the Spurs erupted for seven consecutive points to close the quarter, narrowing the gap to a manageable five points at 35-30.

The Thunder tried unsuccessfully throughout the second quarter to put away the Spurs, but every ante Oklahoma City set, the Spurs called, and after taking the lead for the first time in the third quarter at 71-70, they took it for good, dismantling the Thunder 117-104.

The win, San Antonio’s seventh straight, brings the Spurs to 8-1. Oklahoma City is now 5-4.

San Antonio’s big three, oft belittled for its age, and a supporting cast of little fame flipped the script on Oklahoma City. The Spurs hit 34 of their 38 free throws, shooting a higher percentage and earning more attempts than the league-leading Thunder, who hit 24-of-30.

“We gave them 17 free throws in the first quarter. That’s way too many,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “They shouldn’t have that in two and a half quarters.”

33 of the Spurs’ 117 points were scored on three-point baskets, and San Antonio shot better from outside the arc (55%) than inside it (36%). Bonner led the long distance charge, hitting on all seven of his attempts.

“All it takes for [Bonner] is just half a second. He’s a knockdown three-point shooter, and we didn’t do a good job going into it,” Brooks admitted. “There’re no excuses.”

Tony Parker led the balanced San Antonio offense with a game-high 24 points, Bonner and Manu Ginobli each scored 21, and Richard Jefferson finished with 18.

Kevin Durant paced the Thunder with 23 points on 10-for-23 shooting, but attempted an uncharacteristically meager two free throws.

“Richard Jefferson and George Hill both guarded [Durant] all night long and made him work for everything he got,” Spurs head coach Greg Popovich said. “He is special, but I thought George and Richard gave everything to try to at least make him work his fanny off.”

Russell Westbrook added 19 points and eight assists for the Thunder, Jeff Green scored 12 in his first game after missing three with a twisted ankle, James Harden had his best offensive outing of the season with 14 points, and Serge Ibaka finished with 12 points and three blocked shots.

Nick Collison made his debut for the Thunder after missing the season’s first eight games with a back injury. After entering to a standing ovation from the home crowd, Collison scored two points and retrieved three rebounds in 11 minutes.

Sunday night’s loss marked the seventh time in nine games that the Thunder has allowed an opponents to score 100 or more.

“We all have to get on the same page. We have to come out at the beginning defensively and finish defensively as well,” Durant said.

The win, San Antonio’s seventh straight, brings the Spurs to 8-1. Oklahoma City is now 5-4.


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