Thunder Speed Propels a Dominant Second Half – OKC 122, SAS 112
Dennis Schröder has taken a lot of contact in his NBA career. That’ll happen when you’re usually the smallest guy on the floor. So after he sliced into the lane for a slick driving layup as the third quarter clock expired, he was ready for the massive chest bump he got from Russell Westbrook, who scrambled off the bench to celebrate his fellow point guard’s rejuvenated second half.
Schröder had struggled in the first half, shooting 0-for-4 and dishing out just 1 assist, but in the second half the German lightning bolt blitzed the San Antonio Spurs for 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 4 assists in the second half, in addition to 3 steals that helped the Thunder get out and go. The limber point guard wiggled his way into the paint with hesitation dribbles and blow-by drives as he played with tempo and kept the defense honest by knocking down four jump shots.
“He was getting buckets,” marveled second-year guard Terrance Ferguson. “Getting buckets.”
“I just stayed aggressive. I had a tough stretch in other games and teammates keep giving me confidence, like you know keep shooting, keep doing you and I think I did that tonight in the second half and just stayed aggressive there,” Schröder explained.
Watch: Schröder on the Win
The end result of the Thunder’s 71-52 barrage in the second half was a 122-112 win over the Spurs to avenge Thursday night’s epic battle down in San Antonio that ended in a loss. Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club ended a three-game said and moved to 26-16 with the win, back to 10 games over .500 once again.
It was far from a wire-to-wire victory though, as the first quarter bore an eerie resemblance to the beginning of the game down in San Antonio. The Spurs second unit once again came into the game and rained down off-balance three-pointers as Davis Bertans and Marco Belinelli hit 5 combined threes in the opening frame. As the game wore on, however, the Thunder’s defense locked up and held San Antonio to just 45.8 percent overall and just 10-for-31 shooting from behind the three-point line.
“In the second half we did a good job of staying with (their shooters),” Westbrook said.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 13, 2019
“We knew that was our main focus: take away their three-point shot, force them to drive and force them Steve-o (Adams), which is pretty hard to score over," Ferguson added.
After opening up a 13-point lead, the Spurs kept the Thunder at bay for the rest of the first half, but Donovan’s group played like a team possessed to start the third quarter. On the very first play, the Thunder forced a turnover out top and it resulted in a Westbrook layup, one of seven he got in the second half as he shook off a tough jump shooting night for 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. That layup began a 15-3 burst for the Thunder to retake the lead, which it only surrendered one more time before running away with this one.
Westbrook was the catalyst for the most significant overall thread in the game, which was the pace the Thunder played at in the second half. After getting 9 fast break points in the first half, a respectable number, the Thunder racked up an incredible 18 points in transition over the second and third quarters to help push the Thunder to 27 assists on 43 made baskets while shooting 46.2 percent from the field, 11-for-23 from three and 25-of-29 from the free throw line while giving it away just 7 times.
Behind headlong drives from Westbrook and some full-on sprinting from his teammates, the Thunder was able to attack off of missed and makes and get to the paint before the Spurs defense was set up. Not only did the Thunder score on immediate fast breaks, but if carried on some brisk offensive movement in the secondary break, getting a wave of players to flow into motion to keep San Antonio off balance.
The momentum gained by the Thunder starters was carried on by the second unit, which scored 48 total points as a group. Schröder’s aggressiveness and supreme confidence provided the undercurrent. Patrick Patterson’s 3-for-3 three-point shooting and Abdel Nader’s slashing drives to the rim for 15 points were the electric shocks to the Spurs’ system.
“We came in, and we were playing the right way on both ends,” Nader said. “Especially offensively, we were moving the ball, getting Pat involved early. I think that really helped us with his shooting and spreading the floor and opening up drives for Dennis, me everybody.”
“If the bench can step up and provide some type of offense. It puts less pressure on Russ, PG, and those guys to provide points,” Patterson said.
By the time the Thunder’s starters checked back in, the game was already in hand, but the starters used one final charge to put this one away. During an 8-0 burst that took a 108-100 lead out to 116-100 with 4:01 to go, Westbrook scored six points on a pair of free throws and and a breakaway layup that Schröder dished to him between the legs. Westbrook then found Steven Adams for a tipped-in alley-oop before the Thunder captain once again went coast to coast for a bucket. In the end, it was speed that killed.
“That’s how we play,” Westbrook said.