After over a month’s stay in only the win column, the Spurs were handed their first loss since February 21 at the hands of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This matchup of the two teams seated atop the Western Conference standings brought a real playoff feel to the waning regular season. Though Coach Popovich was very public about is utter apathy toward the streak, it was evident from the tip that both teams would treat the game as if their playoff lives were on the line.
The first quarter consisted heavily of the Spurs doing typical Spurs things. Players were cutting, screening, and popping to perfection, giving San Antonio a quick 11-point lead and an early indication that the streak very well might be extended to 20.
It turns out, however, that the Thunder have some pretty good players that like to win games as well. Bummer.
From the end of the first quarter on, the Thunder really controlled the pace and flow of the game. Oklahoma City’s guards increased the pressure on the guards, suffocating screens and over-anticipating casual passes, leading to several Spurs turnovers and Thunder fast-break scores. Lazy passes down low proved to be the low-hanging fruit for the Thunder defense, using their youth and length to scoop up the normally-fluid dishes with ease, ultimately throwing off San Antonio’s entire offensive flow.
After all was said and done, Oklahoma City cruised to a 106-94 win.
The Spurs did all they could defensively on Durant and Westbrook, making each work for their 28 and 27, respectively. What the Thunder didn’t have to work too hard for were the turnovers. The overall laziness and casualty of the passing is definitely a cause for at least mild concern. The Thunder ended up with 19 takeaways, outscoring the Spurs 30-14 in the category.
Even after such a defining streak for both this season and the franchise as a whole, this streak-breaking loss, though inevitable as it may be, ultimately showed some wrinkles in the Spurs’ game that still need to be ironed out come playoffs.
Luckily, the turnovers and offense can be tweaked and fixed in time for the postseason. Unfortunately, the confidence that the Thunder gained after this highlighted game cannot be rescinded. This game would have been a huge win for either team for a storied Western Conference Finals matchup. Now, Oklahoma City has the upper hand and confidence come game one if the series does in fact take place.
So say goodbye to the streak and goodbye to any regular season mindset you still may be in. The playoffs are less than two weeks away and it’s time to focus on getting the offense patched up.