It is no particular secret that Thunder general manager Sam Presti is modeling this team on the San Antonio template: Presti was an assistant to Spurs GM R. C. Buford before moving to Seattle and thence to Oklahoma City. And when the Spurs jumped out to a 29-14 lead after the first quarter tonight, pretty much everyone assumed it was the teacher reminding the student just who’s in charge here.
As if. The Thunder, very much playing the Spurs’ game, held San Antonio to 13 points in both the second and fourth quarters, and beat them 78-76, evening the series at 1-1. The Spurs, for lack of a better term, were Sefocated: Thabo Sefolosha batted away Tony Parker’s last trey attempt in the waning seconds. It was the Thabster’s second block of the night, along with three steals and 12 points.
The Spurs didn’t help their cause by missing 16 of 19 treys and committing 15 turnovers. (The Thunder turned it over only 11 times, with none in the fourth quarter.) Parker was decently hot, with 28 points, and Tim Duncan put together a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double, but that was pretty much it for the Spurs’ offense.
Not that the Thunder put up all that many points: they shot 35.8 percent, six ticks worse than the Spurs. But this was a night for defense, though Kevin Durant dropped in his usual 25 points and OKC went 17-21 at the stripe. (The Spurs were 7-12, and three of those five misses were in the final frame.) Nick Collison recorded 10 boards, and Russell Westbrook snagged eight more.
Don’t feel too sorry for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who was coaching his 1000th game and threw his hands up in the air in despair as the buzzer sounded. He’s still Pop, after all. And we have to play the Spurs twice more this season.
And two more playoff-bound teams will be reporting to the Ford this week: the Bulls on Wednesday and the Jazz on Friday.