Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Spurs

SPURS 114

THUNDER 105
5-for-7 3-point shooting numbers for James Harden and Royal Ivey combined

6 Assists for Russell Westbrook, the team-high on the night

6 Blocks by Serge Ibaka, improving upon his NBA-leading 3.2 blocks-per-game average

12 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka in addition to his 12 points, for a double-double

21 Points off turnovers tonight for the Thunder

23 Minutes for Royal Ivey, who helped force Tony Parker into three second half turnovers

36 Points for Russell Westbrook, a game-high

90.0 Percentage the Thunder shot from the free-throw line tonight

The Thunder will continue its home stand with a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night. Game time is 8:30 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then hits the road for one game as it visits the Utah Jazz on Tuesday before coming back home to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
Coming back from winning a late game in Denver Thursday night, the Thunder had only hours to prepare for the Western Conference's second place team, the San Antonio Spurs before its clash on Friday night. Despite a rough start when an on-fire Spurs team seemingly couldn't miss from the outside, the Thunder fought and clawed its way back into the game to give itself a chance to win late. After trimming a 27-point first half deficit to two points, the Thunder just wasn't able to get over that final hump, ultimately falling to the Spurs by the score of 114-105. Late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, however, the Thunder went on a 14-0 run, partially thanks to the toughness and 36 total points by guard Russell Westbrook on the night. The fourth-year guard explained that the Thunder's defensive intensity and the crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena were the keys to the run.

"Defense, we did a great job of defending, getting stops and getting steals and playing Thunder basketball," Westbrook said. "(The fans) are always loud throughout the game. They could have given up on us when we were down 25, but they didn't. We try to play hard for them."

Another factor that got the packed house at the 'Peake going in the second half was the inspired play of Royal Ivey, who harassed Spurs guard Tony Parker into three second half turnovers and also knocked down two crucial three-pointers. The hustle, energy, emotion and intensity that Ivey displayed on every single possession was palpable, and the crowd fed off it. From spacing the floor by running to the corner to playing defense right in Parkers face to force an errant shot attempt that turned into a loose ball, Ivey's impact was huge. After the game, Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks talked about the heart and determination Ivey brings to the team.

"He never gives up," Brooks said of Ivey. "He believes there are 24 seconds in every possession and you have to play it with all your heart, and he does it every 24 seconds. I couldn't be happier for a guy on our team. He plays and he practices the same way. Whether he plays it doesn't affect how he practices. That is an incredible, professional, winner that we have on our team and he does it every night. You can play him two minutes, you can play him zero minutes, you can play him ten straight games and then not play him for 20 straight games. He's going to do everything that we ask in practices and games. He was a big part of our comeback. He really did a good job of harassing Parker and whoever he was on."

Ivey's passion was not solitary on Friday night, as the entire team and seemingly the whole arena rallied around the resilient team attempting to make the biggest comeback in the Thunder's history. The 14-0 run in particular was highlighted by staunch defense that led to fast break opportunities, but also prudent drives and dishes that led to open jump shots. While Nick Collison's defense on Tim Duncan helped keep the Spurs in check, it was the length and athleticism of Kevin Durant, who finished with 25 points, and efficiency of James Harden (19 points on 8-for-11 shooting) that brought the Thunder all the way back to the brink of taking the lead. In the end it wasn't quite enough, but Durant was proud of the effort and the manner in which the team played as one.

"We were playing together," Durant said. "Everybody was touching the ball, making right passes. We were slowing down. We weren't trying to get everything back in one play. We played defense, if we do that we get some run outs and get our crowd into it. We were able to have the opportunity to win that game."

TURNING POINT:
There were a number of different turning points in this game, although there were zero lead changes throughout the night and the game was only tied twice. The first one came with 3:17 remaining in the first quarter, when the Spurs embarked on a 12-4 run that turned a four-point advantage into a 14-point lead with only seconds remaining in the first quarter. Eventually the Spurs would run their lead up to 27 points, but the Thunder made a run of its own. Starting with 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Thunder went on a 14-0 run that turned a 92-76 deficit into a 92-90 deficit thanks to three-pointers by James Harden and Royal Ivey, along with offensive firepower from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. In the end, however, the Thunder could never pull any closer than two points, as the Spurs answered every Thunder bucket and put the game away in the final 1:20 of the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Great anticipation on the first defensive possession by Kendrick Perkins to make a steal in the lane... Then the Thunder defense stands tall for 24 seconds straight to force a shot clock violation... Good hustle by Thabo Sefolosha to knock the ball out of bounds, then Russell Westbrook deflects a pass and the Thunder forces another shot clock violation... Perkins and Serge Ibaka hit the offensive glass hard and Ibaka finally gets a put-back... Wonderful help-side rotation by Ibaka to swat a Tony Parker shot, then he grabs the defensive rebound... Westbrook with an aggressive move to the lane to get the bucket, then a strong baseline drive by Kevin Durant to get a lay-in... Nice dish from Perkins to a cutting Westbrook along the baseline... Sick crossover from Westbrook to free himself up for a mid-range jumper... Much needed 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer by James Harden... Harden then with a nifty move in the lane to get a ball to finally bounce through the cup... Smart foul by Royal Ivey to stop a sure layup on a fast break... Perfect ball rotation from Durant to Harden to Ivey for a corner 3-pointer... Westbrook stems a Spurs run with a 3-pointer at the top of the key, then Harden makes a steal that leads to a Westbrook run-out... Good slip pass from Harden to Collison for a lay-in... Ivey plays tough defense on Parker and forces a turnover with his energy... Great positioning from Ibaka to tip-in a Durant miss... Ibaka knocks down a mid-range jumper off a Harden pass, then Westbrook draws an offensive foul... Quickness from Westbrook to draw defenders on the break and find Harden for a 3-pointer... Ibaka comes from nowhere for a big block!... Tough defense again to force yet another shot clock violation then Ibaka with a big offensive rebound to draw a foul.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice pass from Durant to Sefolosha for the easy dunk... Perkins makes a steal then takes it down the floor, the ball swings around to Durant who nails a 3-pointer... Good drive and dish offense from Westbrook and Sefolosha, who finds Ibaka for a jumper, then Ibaka makes a nice box-out, which is followed by a Sefolosha 3-pointer... Ibaka faces up and pulls a smooth mid-range jumper... Smart foul by Perkins to stop a Tim Duncan drive... Good hustle from Nick Collison and Lazar Hayward to pull in a rebound... Westbrook snags a loose ball and gets it to Harden for a fast break layup... Durant skies high for a rebound to draw a foul, then Westbrook draws a foul on a 3-point attempt... Strong defensive effort by Collison and Durant to force a turnover, then Westbrook slides into the lane and scores plus the foul... Durant impacts a shot by soaring high, then Collison and company hustle to secure the rebound, which Harden follows up with a 3-pointer... Thunder forces two consecutive missed opportunities with great defensive effort... Durant drives and kicks to Ivey for a 3-pointer!... Strong box-out by Collison to reel in a defensive rebound, which leads to a Durant jumper... Collison continues to be physical on defense, forcing Duncan into a tough shot... Great leaping ability to reel in a rebound by Durant, who races to the other end for a layup, then Westbrook makes a steal that turns into a Harden run-out... Collison draws a charge then Harden slices through the lane for a finish at the bucket... Ivey does a great job chasing Parker off screens and draws a moving screen, then Ibaka slaps an offensive rebound out to Durant... Ivey harrasses Parker into a turnover and the crowd goes nuts... Strong rebound from Westbrook, then Harden saves an offensive possession to get it to Durant for a three.