OKC Thunder close to perfection in San Antonio – 3 takeaways

JANUARY 2: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder flies past Bryn Forbes #11 of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
JANUARY 2: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder flies past Bryn Forbes #11 of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
JANUARY 2: Head coach of the OKC Thunder Billy Donovan talks with his players before the start of their game against the San Antonio Spurs (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

Billy Donovan versus master Pop:

As is typical for these two combatants the game featured a back and forth effort with each club taking leads. But as has become the trademark of this OKC Thunder club getting to clutch time is their strength and then taking over dominating that section of the game.

You can’t play a record as teams up and down the Association have reminded this season and in the case of San Antonio, they are a squad who doesn’t beat themselves. Head Coach Gregg Popovich always has his charges dialed into the task at hand, playing their system and it’s hard to argue those principles given 22 consecutive postseason appearances.

With that challenge in front of them, the Thunder were focused delivering on their game plan and most importantly turned the ball over a season low four times.

Credit to Billy Donovan for his game plan which was highlighted by a few factors.

  • Although LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are known as mid-range specialists recently they’ve taken to shooting more 3-pointers. The reason is simple – teams are giving them that shot. On the season LA and DD have taken 19 and 60 attempts from deep prior to this match. In this match, they took four and three respectively which is partially due to what the Thunder defense gave them and seeming concerted effort by the Spurs (or late) to increase their attempts from the perimeter.
  • In their first meeting, the Spurs dominated the Thunder on the glass. San Antonio won both the total rebounds (47 to 31) and offensive boards (12 to 4). But, on this night everyone on the Thunder was crashing the glass and in the end, it was OKC who won the board battle 54-52 although the Spurs bested in offensive rebounds (14-8) the Thunder kept the variance within reason.
  • Focus – the Thunder turned over the ball a season low four times.
  • Points in the paint: with mid-range specialists Aldridge and DeRozan being players who’ve historically feasted in the paint against OKC the fact the Thunder won the paint battle was huge (52 to 42 PIP).
  • Disciplined: the Thunder took only 14 personal fouls which is another sign they stuck to what was on the chalkboard since both LMA and DeRozan are players who typically get to the line for double-digit attempts. On this night the Spurs shot a total of TWELVE free throws!