Things were frustrating enough this evening for me to pick out my most transcendent moment early: it was during the second quarter, when the image of Governor Fallin appeared on the big screen at the ‘Peake, and Loud City erupted in a gleeful chorus of boos. Then came the fourth quarter, and with eight minutes left the Thunder, previously down as many as 15, had pulled to within two. Then Serge Ibaka knocked down a trey — his fifth! — and Russell Westbrook added another one. Suddenly it was Thunder by four. The Spurs, of course, were not going to take that lying down; with 1:19 left, having scored on eight of nine possessions, were up seven. Over the next thirty seconds, Westbrook would knock down five; two Tony Parker free throws ran the Spur lead back to four. It took most of the clock for OKC to respond, with a Dion Waiters bank shot; Kawhi Leonard hit two more free throws, and time ran out on the Thunder. San Antonio 100, Oklahoma City 96, and now the Spurs are near, if not precisely in, the catbird seat.
Moral victories, of course, are still recorded as losses, but the Thunder did manage to hold LaMarcus Aldridge down to a mere 24 points, after 38 and 41 in the first two. The problem with that, though, is that it gave Kawhi Leonard more space, and Leonard was really good at using more space, collecting 31 points and 11 rebounds. (Leonard was 9-17 from the floor; Russell Westbrook also scored 31, but he went a startling 10-31.) OKC had the rebounding edge, by five; but they also fouled a whole lot, and they should probably consider themselves fortunate that the Spurs somehow missed 10 of 34 free throws.
The maddening inconsistency of this Thunder squad proved, once again, to be its undoing: they can put together runs, but they still yield them up much more easily. They know this. Pop knows this. Everybody knows this, except possibly Governor Fallin.