Thunder Let Big Lead, Win, Get Away Late

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Halfway through the 3rd quarter everything was going OKC’s way. The Thunder led the San Antonio Spurs by 21 points and it seemed like with a couple more baskets by big blue and a couple more minutes off the clock, Gregg Popovich would be on the verge of raising the white flag.

Instead the Thunder were on the verge of falling off a cliff.

Just seconds earlier Andre Roberson, who’d pestered Spurs star Kawhi Leonard into a 4-for-12 shooting night, picked up his fourth foul. Seconds later Steven Adams was whistled for his fourth and the Thunder defense withered allowing the Spurs to finally get going and snatch a 100-95 win away from OKC despite Westbrook’s 39th triple double.

Just two nights before the Thunder rallied back from 21 down at Orlando to win in overtime and two nights before that had come back from 13 down to beat the Mavericks.

Friday night the tables were turned. The Thunder led from the jump and dominated and then let it all get away.

“We had our opportunities,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan pointed out. “We missed some shots around the basket and then their offensive rebounds really hurt us.”

OKC, usually efficient in the paint, hit just 19 of 44 attempts down low. Many of the misses were layups or tipins or putbacks. Those offensive rebounds Donovan mentioned? San Antonio had 13 of them, nine coming in the second half.

Without Roberson on the floor because of foul trouble Leonard was finally able to get going, hitting six of his last 10 shots after missing eight of his first 12.

Westbrook ended up with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, but he struggled with his shot in the second half, going just 3-for-12. Victor Oladipo started hot hitting five of his first seven shots for 12 points. He would score only four the rest of the way on 2-for-10.

“Victor had some good looks,” Donovan said, “but they just didn’t fall.”

That was the Thunder’s problem over the last 18 minutes of the game. That and not being able to stop the Spurs as efficiently as they had earlier in the game. The combination was a killer, leading to a 20-2 Spurs run over a five minute span late in the 3rd quarter.

The Thunder ended up shooting just 40.7 percent overall and 32.5 percent in the second half. In the 3rd quarter OKC missed 15 of 20 shots.

To make matters worse Utah held off the Washington Wizards to move 3 and a half games ahead of OKC in the Northwest Division and with only seven games to play it seems unlikely the Thunder could catch the Jazz.

Next up a Sunset Sunday day game against the Charlotte Hornets.