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Blue inches shy from comeback, fall to Spurs 109-106

With guard Ty Jerome being recalled to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Blue struggled to find their rhythm being rocked 109-106 to the Austin Spurs. For the Blue, their loss dips them down to 7-3, good for a three-way tie for the 3rd seed. With the victory, the Austin Spurs propelled themselves to 8-3, holding possession of the 2nd seed in addition to a highly coveted tiebreaker over the Blue.

Oklahoma City changed this up to open Friday’s matchup handing wings Rob Edwards and Jaylen Hoard their first starting nods of the season. The Blue didn’t show much tear out the gates, keeping the Spurs limited to an 11-8 start in the first three minutes. Austin employed an interesting tactic— starting the contest with a small-ball lineup. The Spurs hasty lineup left the bank open taking advantage of their speed to find open shots, stirring in their first 6-of-7 triples. Austin continued making a strong statement, controlling their period en route to a 38-23 lead. 

The Spurs shots came open the whole way, assisting on 12 of their 15 buckets in the first. The Blue simply could not get the gears going, finding themselves down as large as 20 in part to 9-of-25 shooting. Surprisingly for the Blue, they looked to their bench unit to produce points, using their tandem of Omer Yurtseven and Rob Edwards for 13 of their 23 points.

Shooting for the Blue still remained a grave problem, firing a misless  0-of-7 performance in the quarter, but the paint got back to normal. The Blue hammered in their first 8 points solely inside, using vicious penetrations to drop the game to 10 in the first six. Oklahoma City caught a godsend when the Spurs ran into a three point rut — hitting just 2-of-14 in an eight minute span. Capitalizing upon others missteps has been the central part as to why the Blue have been so successful this season — they left things lower case. Despite their opportunity Oklahoma City only managed to swelter to 14 before San Antonio got hot, flaring up for 7 straight points. The Spurs grappled right onto their late run to stroll into halftime up 61-44.

Poor shooting could not have come for a worse time for the Blue. Oklahoma City took a drubbing outside, burying only 15% of attempts, going 3-of-20 outside. Center play really directed the Blue offense finding 19 of their 44 points through Brown and Yurtseven, but shots didn’t come in bunches. Moses Brown clashed into a wall of Spurs defenders, causing one offensive foul and three turnovers in 15 minutes. Even the most mundane tasks for Brown became an issue, only stashing 3 rebounds and 2 made field goals, instead being tested at the line.

Oklahoma City saw daylight to begin the second half on a beautiful Rob Edwards dump off to Moses Brown — San Antonio wasn’t gone though. Robert Woodard II shot off like a pistol to lead 7 points in response. The Blue made bonny attempts to claw back into the game, but their _ costly turnovers in the quarter limited any real shot — trailing as high as 26 at one point. Oklahoma City eased their troubles late, standing firm in the final six minutes to bury 7 of their last 10 shots only being down 91-77 heading into the fourth.

Oklahoma City caught their fire right when necessary, beginning the fourth on a two-minute 10-4 spurt all inside to cut the hole to eight. Antonius Cleveland stepped up fast dicing down five straight points to shrink the deficit to five, and by that point the cans of worms had been opened. Pokusevski ran rampant on defense, scraping up a block and steal in two straight possessions, but neither resulted in points. Ryan Wolridge turned into a contortionist banking a layup while falling to make things 98-94 with 6 to go. Both sides exchanged pleasantries but no real momentum materialized until Austin’s Cam Reynolds stuck a three pointer to hold a 9-point lead with 4 minutes. Zavier Simpson ended his coldspell slipping in 5 points unanswered to make things tight again. Ryan Woolridge followed it up with a lob to Moses Brown to cut it to 2. Aleksej Pokusevski gave Oklahoma City their first lead since 2-0 a pull-up right wing three. Austin shanked a big top-of-the key triple and Zavier Simpson slid by for a layup, however it was registered as an offensive foul. Galen Robinson Jr. drove baseline for the Spurs collecting an unconventional and-1 with a goaltend. OKC bobbled the ball around until Antonius Cleveland missed a three-ball, and a Robinson layup on the other end posted Austin up 3 with 7 seconds left. Both sides swapped timeouts giving only 6.7 seconds and off an Alesksej Pookusevski inbound he received a top of the key attempt — too strong. 

The Blue netted seven players in double-figures — but the majority of efforts came from the bench. Omer Yurtseven charged the point column, racking up a team-high 17 points off 8-of-11 shooting, to pair with 6 rebounds. Friday may have been Yurtseven’s best performance of the entire year. The 7-footer made his presence as per usual, finding 12 points inside, though his outside presence set this night apart. Yurtseven found himself responsible to space out the floor with the second unit, garnering himself a face-up midrange and top of the key three in his 18 minutes — he made both. Moses Brown stacked right behind his bench star producing 16 points and 8 rebounds across 26 minutes. Brown never got his feet wet, being harassed inside from this game’s onset. The big man only managed to hoist up 6 shots the entire game (making 4,) largely due to Austin’s ruthless presence down low. He shot over 50% of the teams 11 free throws Friday, going 4-of-6 at the stripe. The Spurs unique small-ball lineup set Brown in a box as usual gathers to step into dunks were swiped for 5 turnovers, and brawny backdowns sent defenders flying for charges. Aleksej Pokusevski didn’t find a lot shooting the basketball yet he stilled stuffed the stat sheet. The 19-year-old tallied 12 points, 19 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals across 30 minutes. Poku’s shots hardly fell going 4-of-14 (1-of-7 3pt) though his late game endeavors were a bright spot. With Austin primarily spread out lose balls off Spurs’ shot were a regular occurrence. Pokusevski’s size and length made the opposition just daze at the 7-footer harness rebounds even seeing 5 come on offense. The rookie stayed on lookout for errant passes and shots using his long strides to make up long distances. Pokusevski strung together a nice collection of smart plays, highlighted by baiting his defender from three to net free throws while also restraining himself goaltending Robinson’s critical layup, instead being goaltended by Moses Brown. Ryan Woolridge had his coming-out party against Austin, notching his first double-double with 11 points and 11 assists. Woolridge’s athleticism paired with body-control had him on the loose the majority of the game. The guards sense to slash in through two-layers of defense on a routine basis ultimately rooted this comeback. Vincent Edwards took a large chunk of Ty Jerome’s minutes putting it to good use for 14 points almost all coming from distance — and Woolridge passes. Jaylen Hoard capped his starting-debut with 10 points and 5 rebounds, though his 3-of-10 shooting was less than ideal. Rob Edwards toiled in his first game starting going for 6 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Edwards’ night came way out of left field, going a blank 0-of-5 from deep.

The Oklahoma City Blue (7-3) will get right back into action Saturday morning to face another goliath in the Delaware Blue Coats (7-3.)

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