After dropping Game 1 by 32 points against the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder escaped with a 98-97 win in Game 2 in San Antonio on Monday. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 57 points, while Dion Waiters got away with a blatant offensive foul with 13.5 seconds to go to help the Thunder even a suddenly riveting series.
Waiters, attempting to in-bound the ball in the final seconds, elbowed Manu Ginobili to create space for a passing lane. The Spurs still wound up with a steal, but Patty Mills missed the potential game-winning shot. The game ended on a loose-ball scrum under the basket.
“The thought was (the game) should not have come down to that (non-call), that they didn’t play well enough,” Fox Sports Southwest Spurs reporter and studio host Andrew Monaco said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “But also, look, it was not called, we still got the ball, did not convert on a 3-on-1, and this series is tied at 1-1. (The Spurs are) trying to look as much as they can to Game 3 and leave this one in the rear-view mirror. They’ve got to win on Oklahoma City’s floor.”
And if they do, they’ll need more than the 19 assists they had Monday.
Need perspective on that? The Spurs had 39 assists in Game 1.
“I thought the ball stuck a little bit too much,” Monaco said. “We saw it a little bit in the Memphis series. Well, the Thunder aren’t the Grizzlies, and I know that’s painfully obvious. And really, no one joined LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. It was Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, and normally for this Spurs team, the bench is going to score and you’re going to see what their role players can do. It really was just LaMarcus Aldridge tonight and no one else.”
Aldridge shot 15-of-21 from the floor, 10-of-10 from the foul line and scored a game-high 41 points.
“The Spurs got away from their identity in Game 2, and that’s sharing the basketball – (making the) good-to-great extra pass,” Monaco said. “And this is an Oklahoma City team that I think regained its identity, and that is Russ Westbrook being aggressive and attacking and Kevin Durant hitting the shots, but also (Enes) Kanter and (Steven) Adams (playing well). They had other people follow their Big Two. The Spurs didn’t even have a Big Two. They had just the one of Aldridge.”
Aldridge is averaging 39.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in the series. He’s also shooting 75.0 percent (33-of-44) from the floor.
Aldridge has played at a high level all season, but especially since Tim Duncan missed time in late January and early February with a sore knee.
“I think it took a little bit of LaMarcus trying to fit in with the Spurs, and I also thought it was the Spurs figuring out where LaMarcus Aldridge fit,” Monaco said. “With Tim Duncan out of the lineup, Popovich was able to run things for LaMarcus that were run for Tim Duncan in the past. Pop said to LaMarcus, ‘You shoot it until I tell you it’s a bad shot.’ He didn’t have to tell LaMarcus about any of those being bad shots. I think that allowed LaMarcus to be comfortable. Pop kept saying that he was deferring and deferring – as you normally do when you’re the new player. But it was enough of that. Let LaMarcus be LaMarcus. I think from that moment and post-All-Star break, he has been just dynamite.”
But he needs help. We’ll see if he gets it Friday in Game 3. Tip-off from Oklahoma City is slated for 9:30 p.m. ET.