Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Game 2 Recap – May 2, 2016

SAN ANTONIO – In a maelstrom of limbs, hands and bodies, the ball rolled around under the Thunder’s basket as the game clock dripped away to nothing. When the final buzzer sounded and the red light splashed across the backboard, the ball was still on the ground. For the Thunder, that wild finish was a welcome end to a game that helped even this Round 2 series against the San Antonio Spurs at 1-1.

The Thunder had plenty of work to do in the closing minute before finishing off a gut-wrenching, wild game, but the final numbers on the scoreboard, the only thing that matters, read 98-97 in favor of the Thunder.

“Coming off of a very tough game on Saturday, I didn’t know what the outcome would be today, but I felt like our guys would respond and would play hard and compete,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said. “I felt like we got a good effort from everybody.”

The Thunder led 85-76 with nine minutes to go in regulation, but the Spurs responded with back-to-back Danny Green three-pointers, making it a one-possession game all over again. From there it was a back and forth scramble defined by two clutch plays by the Thunder, both out of Donovan timeouts, before some absolute madness in the final 26 seconds of action.

After a timeout with 2:50 to go, the Thunder executed a beautiful play that saw Kevin Durant get double-teamed and swing the ball cross-court to Serge Ibaka. The Congolese forward saw a defender run out to chase him off the 3-point line, and simply passed the ball once more into the corner for Dion Waiters, who knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Thunder up 94-89 with 2:29 to go.

“I just read the way they were playing me,” Ibaka explained. “They let me take the first shot and I knew the second time they were going to fly by. I just read the game and passed to Dion.”

About two minutes later, the Thunder clung to a 94-91 lead as 15 seconds dropped to 14 seconds on the shot clock and Russell Westbrook surveyed the landscape, keeping his dribble alive and ready. Kevin Durant sprinted through the lane and dummied a screen. As Westbrook found him on the left wing, Durant cut into the middle of the floor with the ball and lofted up an unorthodox floating jumper that only he has the gall to practice, let alone make. Swish.

“We just tried to create a little bit of movement and space the floor on the backside,” Donovan explained. “Russell was able to find him and then Kevin had room to put the ball on the floor.”

A five point lead with 33.2 seconds to go wasn’t completely safe yet, as the Spurs quickly attacked and Tony Parker made an unbelievable no-look, behind the head bounce pass from under the basket all the way out to the three-point line for LaMarcus Aldridge, who knocked down a three-pointer. Russell Westbrook knocked down two free throws as the Spurs started to intentionally foul, but then Aldridge was fouled on a three-point attempted, knocking down all three free throws to bring his personal tally to 41 points on the night.

What happened next was pure mayhem, as a sequence of potential fouls and violations was initiated by the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili stepping on the sideline right in front of Waiters as he tried to in-bound the ball. Chaos ensued, the ball ended up in the air over mid-court, it bounced into Spurs hands and eventually to Patty Mills, under the basket.

In the scramble, Steven Adams had managed to race back and prevent a Mills shot, and the ball swung to Ginobili in the short corner. Again Adams closed in, forcing a drive and then another pass, back now to Mills in the deep corner. Somehow, Adams again recovered enough to contest the Mills 3-pointer, which was an airball. That’s when Ibaka and Waiters battled under the rim with Aldridge for the loose ball that never did come back up to the surface before the game clock ran out.

“We tried to in-bound it, turned it over and from there it’s just a scramble,” Adams explained. “I just tried to do the best I could and the team did, scrambling and contesting that three and they ended up missing.”

Game 2 Thunder Highlights:

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The Other 45 Minutes of Play

Regardless of the final possession, the Thunder played this game drastically different than Game 1 – controlling the pace and tempo from the very start this time and forcing the Spurs to play uphill all night. In fact, the Thunder jumped out to a 17-4 lead in this one as it forced the Spurs into 2-for-15 shooting to start the game and racked up eight of its 21 fast break points in the first 12 minutes of play.

“It’s better for our team when we get an opportunity to go up the floor, especially off misses,” Westbrook said. “We have to use our youth and athleticism to get up the floor.”

“Not only the pace, but we were playing smarter and better,” Ibaka added. “We were attacking in the fast break when we had to and when we didn’t have an opportunity we slowed it down and ran a play.”

It was a tenuous lead for the Thunder after that 13-point edge, as the Spurs continued to spar with the Thunder and chip away at the lead. If not for the rebounding prowess and physicality of Steven Adams (who finished with 12 points and a postseason career-high 17 rebounds) and the defensive tenacity of Andre Roberson who held Kawhi Leonard to 14 points on 18 shot attempts, the win wouldn’t have been possible.

As a team, the Thunder out-rebounded San Antonio by nine and forced the Spurs to shoot just 42.6 percent (6-for-23 from the 3-point line), in a major turnaround from Game 1. Rotations were crisper, the ball stayed in front of the Thunder defenders and for the most part, the Spurs were forced to play post-up, one-on-one basketball all night.

“We were more aware of their plays and more locked in,” Adams explained. “Everyone was anticipating it rather than reacting.”

More importantly, however, the Thunder displayed the tenacity, focus and mental toughness to withstand the battering winds of San Antonio’s precision and execution. Then they held on for dear life to carry a precious win back to Oklahoma City.

“We showed great resiliency,” Adams said succinctly. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

By the Numbers

17 – Rebounds for Steven Adams, a career-high for him in the Playoffs, helping the Thunder to a plus-nine rebounding margin

21 – Fast break points for the Thunder on the night, including eight in the first quarter alone

57 – Points for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined, in addition to 14 assists and 14 rebounds as five different Thunder players scored in double figures- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Last Word

“This means a lot. This is what we were looking for, to get one win here. We know we still have a long way to go. It’s the first to four. There are five more games left. Now we’re going back home.” – forward Serge Ibaka