Coming off two of the craziest wins of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked to carry the momentum into a matchup with one of the league’s best teams in the San Antonio Spurs. Oklahoma City jumped out to a hot start to take a 14-3 lead on San Antonio, and the Thunder finished the first quarter up 25-16. The solid play for the Thunder continued as they kept up the defensive intensity, and they went into the locker room at the half leading 54-41.
Oklahoma City looked poised to blow the game wide open as they led San Antonio 69-48 with 5:56 left in the third quarter, but the Spurs would not go away as they managed cut the deficit to 5 and ended the quarter trailing the Thunder 71-76. Just when it looked like Oklahoma City would completely blow the game, they managed to hold on to a lead for most of the fourth quarter until a free throw by LaMarcus Aldridge put the Spurs up by 1 with 56.1 seconds to go. The Thunder took the lead back with a Steven Adams dunk on the next possession, but Aldridge immediately scored to put the Spurs up again. San Antonio would finish the game on top 100-95, completing the meltdown as the Thunder gave up a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter.
3rd Quarter Struggles Continue
Oklahoma City has failed to perform well in the third quarter for basically the entire season. The Thunder ranks 22nd in the NBA in third quarter +/- with a -0.7. After reaching their largest lead of the game of 21 points with just under 6 minutes to go in the period, the Spurs roared back to go on a 23-7 run to end the quarter.
Without a doubt, the Thunder’s inability to do anything on either side of the ball coincided with Billy Donovan’s substitutions. As Oklahoma City’s starters began to take a seat in favor of the second unit, the monster lead began to diminish at an increasingly fast rate.
Coach Donovan’s rotations have raised quite a few eyebrows as of late, and while it makes sense that he is tinkering to find out what might be the most effective group of guys on the court at any given time, it almost seems too late in the season to be working to figure that type of stuff out. If Donovan is incapable of sorting rotations out before the first round of the playoffs, the Thunder will almost certainly be destined for a first round exit.
Westbrook Inches Closer to Oscar’s Record
Russell Westbrook picked up his fifth consecutive triple-double, his second-longest streak of the season, and his 39th overall for the season. With seven games remaining, Westbrook needs only 2 more triple-doubles to tie Oscar Robertson’s single-season record of 41, and at this rate, Russ looks almost certain to not only tie the record, but he could very likely even break it.
Westbrook finished tonight’s game with 32 points, 15 rebounds, and 12 assists. After rallying the Thunder in their last two games to overcome ridiculous fourth quarter deficits to come away with wins, Russ did not have enough in the tank to get it done in the fourth tonight. In the final period, Westbrook scored 6 points on 2/7 shooting, but he did have 4 assists as he was trying to get his teammates involved to keep Oklahoma City ahead.
Simply put, Russell Westbrook can carry the team to a win against lesser squads like the Dallas Mavericks and the Orlando Magic, but against a solid team like the San Antonio Spurs, he has got to have help. Victor Oladipo showed signs of greatness tonight, but besides that, Westbrook did not get the kind of support that he needed for the Thunder to get win the at home.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will remain at home as they host the Charlotte Hornets at the Peake on Sunday for a matinee matchup. The Thunder lost to the Hornets in the only matchup so far this season between the two teams in a game where Oklahoma City led by 1 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Charlotte managed to dominate the Thunder in the final period and come away on top 123-112. The Hornets have not had the same success since as they are fighting for a chance to even make it into the playoffs with a current record of 35-41. Charlotte has won 6 of their last 8, and with a playoff spot on the line, they will come in prepared for a fight. Tip-off is set for 2 PM, and the game will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.