The bench of the San Antonio Spurs led the way last night in their 105-93 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Led by Tiago Splitter, who started but played a lot with the second unit, the Spurs outscored the Thunder bench by over 20 points throughout the game.
This is something that would never have happened a season ago when the Thunder still had James Harden.
So, it’s time to overreact now. Maybe the greatest advantage the Thunder had over the Spurs last season was Harden and that second unit. The Spurs are known for their depth and the Thunder were able to nullify that strength when Harden checked in and led the OKC second unit.
There was no Harden and nothing coming close to resembling him last night in San Antonio for the Thunder. Kevin Martin made just 3-of-8 shots and scored nine points (all on three-pointers). Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher combined to go 1-for-7 from the field with two assists. Even Nick Collison struggled mildly turning the ball over three times.
The Spurs would go on to outscore the Thunder 35-18 in the second quarter after the Thunder had led 32-22 after the first.
A weak second unit hasn’t been the case for the Thunder all season long. For the most part, their bench has come through more than most teams have. It’s just that when faced against another elite team, Martin and some of the other role players are no longer as effective.
This forced Scott Brooks to alter his rotation early in the season resting Kevin Durant early in the first quarter then starting him in the second. Brooks hasn’t made this an unbreakable rule but may have to go back to it in the playoffs. We may actually see Durant playing close to 46 minutes per game or so in some playoff games.
The Thunder had a good chance to catch the Spurs in the standings last night. Without Tony Parker, the Spurs still managed to get the win at home and instill plenty of doubt in the Thunder faithful.
The Thunder and Spurs will conclude their regular season series April 4 in OKC.