Oklahoma City’s aggressive defense destroys the San Antonio offense in a game that wasn’t a contest after the second quarter
Tonight, the Thunder used their superior skill and aggressiveness to dissect the Spurs’ offense and defense. The game was marketed as a marquee matchup between the rookie bigs, but Wembanyama and Holmgren were almost beside the point as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander initiated the offense with steals and finished it with snaky drives to the basket. Josh Giddey also did a lot of damage to the Spurs with his length and ball handling skill. The Spurs simply had no answer for the Thunder defense, which had the Silver and Black completely discombobulated for most of the game.
The Spurs kept it close for about 20 minutes in the first half, but the Thunder pressure broke them after that, and it became clear that despite both teams being among the youngest in the league, the talent and experience disparity between the teams was enormous as OKC took it to San Antonio. This kind of loss is a good measuring stick for a young team that has a long way to go, because now we can see just how far the journey will be. It’s going to be tough, but the next step will be on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings, in the Spurs third In Season Tournament game. With a 0-2 record in West Group C, they are pretty much eliminated from the knockout round, which is not a surprise for anyone who watched tonight’s game.
- Of all the In Season Tournament courts I’ve seen so far, the 76ers’ has to be the worst. The bright red is like an icepick to the eyes. The Spurs’ court is a little gaudy, but the cooler colors make it a lot easier to look at without covering your eyes. The OKC IST court occupies the middle of the space between the eye-stabbiness of the Sixers abomination and the restful neutral colors of the Spurs court.
- Julian Champagnie in the starting lineup was a twist that I didn’t expect. Especially since he’s been in a slump so far this season. He was one of the few bright spots for the Spurs tonight, as he used the extended garbage time to work on his game and shoot himself out of his slump.
- Victor Wembanyama started out the game with a little more aggression than we’ve seen from him so far this year. The slow starts have been a problem for him so far, and it’s good to see him involved from the start.
- As soon as Wembanyama sat, SGA started to cook in the paint. He was pretty reluctant to shoot when the big Frenchman was in the paint, but with Champagnie and Collins on the job, the paint was open for business.
- The Spurs played pretty well when they were on schedule in the first quarter, but a few bad turnovers led to easy Thunder points as they led 28-25 after the first.
- Pop used to hate to use challenges, but the rule where you can get a second one if your first challenge is successful has turned him into a challenge enthusiast. It’s probably a good way to gain an additional possession when you know the call is wrong, but it can be risky if the video evidence isn’t conclusive. He used his first challenge early in the second quarter to overturn an out of bounds call.
- There’s been a lot of ink about how the Spurs lack a true point guard, and you could see the problem tonight, as the Silver and Black’s turnovers led to easy Thunder fast break points. They really need someone to hold onto the ball on offense and give it to the right player, and the lack of that gave the quick hands of the Thunder too many opportunities for easy buckets. OKC exploited that weakness for a 13-0 run to finish the first half which turned a close game into a big lead for the home team.
- About 80% of Devin Vassell’s offense is making difficult shots. Imagine how good he could be if his teammates could get him open looks.
- Jeremy Sochan got a flopping technical when someone stepped on his foot and he fell down. That seems harsh.
- After the beating they took to close the first half, you’d expect the Spurs to come out of halftime a little mad. You’d be wrong, as they let the Thunder’s defense take the ball away and start the third quarter on another run, extending the 13-0 run to end the second to a 12-0 surge spanning the halftime break. They continued the onslaught to lead 73-50 halfway through the third.
- Whenever you see a mad scientist in a movie doing crazy experiments, it always turns into a horror story. Maybe the townspeople with torches were right. The Island of Dr. Moreau and Frankenstein aren’t stories about how to succeed through unconventional means. Maybe that metaphor isn’t the best way to explain the Spurs point guard situation. Maybe it is, and that’s the scary part.
- The Thunder led 91-66 after three quarters and the rout was on. Things got a little chippy late as a pushing match ensued between Zach Collins and Kenrich Williams, but it was much ado about nothing.
- The game was so out of control in the fourth quarter that TNT cut away to the Sixers and Mavs games during garbage time. It’s probably for the best. OKC’s end of the bench shot lights out for most of the quarter as the Thunder won 123-87.
The Spurs have lost six games in a row and their record is now 3-8, and they are 0-2 in the In-Season Tournament. Their next game is against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night in San Antonio.