Thunder Backups Give Spurs All They Want
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The end result was what everyone expected, a Spurs win. But the game leading up to that final result was nothing like anyone was expecting.
The Thunder, playing their last game of the regular season, left their Big 3 at home. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka all watched on television with their feet up resting up for a playoff weekend.
The Spurs, playing their last home game and next to last game of the regular season, sent their regular starting lineup out hoping to quickly dispatch the short-handed Thunder.
For much of the first half the OKC backups looked far more interested in playing basketball than did the Spurs starters building an 18-point lead.
"It was just our energy," said Steven Adams, who along with Andre Roberson, were the only regular OKC starters who played. "Everything. Our flow, everyone knew what everyone was doing. Made them make a lot of mistakes on their ends. We just came out swinging."
That different look OKC gave the veteran Spurs confused them at first.
"There's a way that you're used to playing a team and knowing who's on the floor," Kawhi Leonard said. "So, you have to get used to different bodies to guard."
Leonard scored just eight points in the first half but finished with 26 to lead all scorers. Adams, along with Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters and Cameron Payne all finished with 17 to lead the Thunder.
“We’ve got a group of guys who maybe are in different roles at different times but they’re still competitors and they still want to go out there and compete and fight,” pointed out Thunder coach Billy Donovan.
The biggest problem for the Thunder backups last night has also been one of the biggest issues for the Thunder starters this season, turnovers. OKC had seven of them in the third quarter spurring San Antonio to a 31-19 advantage in those 12 minutes and enabling the Spurs to take a 74-72 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Thunder refused to give in, took the Spurs into overtime but in the closing seconds of the extra frame a bad decision by Waiters and then a bad pass by Dion pretty much ended things.
“Dion probably wishes he could have that last pass back,” Donovan said.
That pass came just a few seconds after Waiters launched a step-back fadeaway that missed. He was just 1-for-12 outside the paint but had bulldozed his way inside several times and had been rewarded with free throws.
He admitted after the game he should have done that again.
“I should have took Kyle (Anderson), I knew he couldn’t stay in front of me,” Waiters said.
On OKC’s next possession, down by four after two Spurs free throws, Waiters threw a pass toward Payne that ended up going into the crowd for the Thunder’s 21st and final turnover.
“Maybe Cam could have gone back door,” Donovan said, “But it was probably too long of a pass. It was four anyway at that point but it would have been nice to at least get a quick two and then foul and extend the game, but that kinda ended it for us.”
Still it was an encouraging game in some ways.
Adams and Kanter were a combined 13-for-22 for 24 points and when Donovan went to the twin-tower lineup with both of them playing together they showed they could create problems for the Spurs.
That might be a mental note to file away for a possible second round matchup between these teams.
And it’s always good to get the younger guys some experience going up against front line players.
Now everyone can take a day off while they wait and see who they’ll play next and when.