The Oklahoma City Thunder, with their 100-88 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, made a statement to the rest of the Western Conference that they are dead set on making their second straight NBA Finals appearance. Despite the injuries currently plaguing the Spurs (Tony Parker – shin; Tim Duncan – knee; and Manu Ginobili – hamstring), the Thunder looked like the team to beat.
Coming into the game with a 1.5 game lead in the Western Conference over the Thunder, the Spurs fell flat early. Oklahoma City went on a 26-5 run beginning in the first quarter and they never looked back. At times, it seemed like San Antonio (led by Kawhi Leonard’s team-high 24 points and 14 rebounds) was inching back, but the Thunder were able to keep the Spurs an arm’s length behind on their way to victory. Russell Westbrook put up an impressive 27-7-7, while Kevin Durant posted a 25-9-6 number. On the Spurs’ end, Duncan scored 24 points while grabbing 11 boards.
The most important narrative leaving the Spurs/Thunder showdown on Thursday was the effect of injuries piling up in San Antonio. With its three major stars plagued by injury, even fantastic outings by role players such as Kawhi Leonard cannot save San Antonio against the juggernauts in the Western Conference down the stretch. Oklahoma City continues to do what it needs to do to win, despite lacking the James Harden spark it had a year ago. This maturing Thunder team swatted San Antonio on Thursday to bring itself within 0.5 games of the Western Conference lead, as well as 3.5 games ahead of the 3rd seed Denver Nuggets.