OKC Thunder st8ment win vs Spurs – 3 takeaways

OKC Thunder (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

With a recent loss to the Spurs top of mind, the OKC Thunder responded with one of the most satisfying and complete wins of the season. Three takeaways serve up the goods.

Over the course of the 12 years of the OKC Thunder franchise, the San Antonio Spurs arguably have delivered more beat downs, classic overtime wins, and buzzer beaters on the team than any other opponent in the association.

LaMarcus Aldridge has been so effective against OKC it’s almost as if he had hidden cameras installed in the Thunder locker room sending him a detailed breakdown of the game plan to stop him.

Sam Presti cut his teeth in the vaunted Spurs system as an intern. Many cite the respectful, classy, professional manner the Thunder organization runs as clearly linked to the Spurs template.

Considering San Antonio has made 22 consecutive playoff appearances it’s understandable why this is a program worth emulating. Moreover, just as RC Bufford and Gregg Popovich have adjusted to change over those two plus decades Presti is showcasing his own prowess in this regard. The Thunder GM’s adeptness of altering one strategy to abruptly switch gears while remaining competitive has been nothing short of award worthy.

The constant of the Pops- RC era is a winning culture and team first mentality.  Even in years when the Spurs left Thunder Nation licking their wounds, it was impossible not to respect their system. The commitment to defense and ahead of their time ball sharing earmarked the most successful iterations of the Spurs. No one star was bigger than the last player on the bench and no individual success trumped the team’s goals.

Entering the match Sunday, San Antonio was up 2-1 on the season series and playing with the stretch run desperation. They also laid claim to something (especially since December 9th) few teams have been able to do. On February 11th, the Spurs beat the Thunder in clutch time!

Yet, it was the OKC Thunder who delivered the quintessential Spurs type of game to claim an easy victory. The beast Aldridge was tamed, defense dictated the pace and the balanced scoring attack would’ve made Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker blush.

The victory was so complete and satisfying isolating on three keys seems too limiting  — but here they are:

Crazy wonderful eight:

On Friday in the victory over the Nuggets the OKC Thunder boasted seven players with double-figure scoring. It was the fifth time this season the team had accomplished the feat – a franchise record.

Sunday against the Spurs, the Thunder outdid themselves with EIGHT players registering double-figure scoring efforts. Again, this enters the franchise record books as it’s the first time any team in the 12 years of existence it’s happened.

Now that’s downright Spurs-like!

Bad habits broken:

As Thunderous Intentions recently noted the main bad habits to break were to start games with energy and offensive aggression and to come out of the half time break with defensive focus.

"The key takeaway from the defensive side of the court is it reveals why the third quarter is a problem. While the Thunder score more themselves they also allow teams to score the most after the halftime break.Opponent scoring by quarter:first quarter: 27.2 (13th)second quarter: 26.6 (6th)third quarter: 29.1 (tied 25th)fourth quarter: 24.7 (2nd)"

This dynamic has been present all season and that third quarter specifically often dictated why the Thunder required their clutch time skills to register wins.

OKC was aggressive on offense from game start scoring 29 points in the first frame (as did the Spurs). However, the third quarter was the more impressive of the two accomplishments. In the frame not only did OKC feast (they shot 66.7 percent) but they held San Antonio to 23.8 percent.

That was the turning point in the game. If the Thunder continues to adapt in this quarter there will be many more of these feel good victories. The benefit of replicating this good habit is it will afford the opportunity to rest CP3 and the starters — keeping them fresh for the postseason.

Dominant Dort:

More from Thunderous Intentions

Although Terrance Ferguson was hampered by back stiffness limiting his minutes there is no denying the effect young Lu Dort is having on the squad. His energy is infectious. The Canadian’s defense is on par with the best in the business and when called upon he’s eager to contribute in whatever manner necessary.

Although plus-minus isn’t always indicative of what is occurring on the court it’s hard to deny a plus 36 as anything other than ‘winning’.

Diving deeper there is palpable evidence of how Dort provides an immediate effect when he is on the floor.

Case in point OKC held a three-point lead when he exited in the first quarter. By the time he checked back in at 7:21 of the second quarter the Thunder trailed 45-36. By the end of the quarter, the nine-point deficit was replaced by a six-point lead punctuated by a 16-0 run that coincided with Dort’s re-insertion in the game.

No team is just one player — but Dort’s performance has surpassed the ‘nice to have available’ point to the ‘need to have’ territory.

It’s likely the brain trust will use up all or most of those 45 days of the two-way contract first but don’t be surprised if he’s fully contracted soon. He’s earned it!

For those who like to debate player growth, I’d bank on Dort returning next season with a much improved and more consistent 3-point shot.

In closing, this was such a feel-good game – one of those contests where you catch yourself smiling from the pure joy of witnessing basketball at it’s finest.

Next. Thunder Report Card as team enters stretch. dark

Next up, the Thunder will travel to Chicago for a date with the Bulls.