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Thunder finish half on a high-note, take Spurs 107-102

With the near-approaching All-Star break this weekend, it’s hard to imagine the Thunder and Spurs weren’t already booking reservations for next week. Despite the hard-earned break, there was still a contest to be had Thursday. The Oklahoma City Thunder managed to cap off their back-to-back, and first half of the year, defeating the San Antonio Spurs 107-102. For the Thunder, their perseverance paid off, now hopscotching the Sacramento Kings for the 12th seed, finishing with a 15-21 record. San Antonio with the loss clung onto the 7th seed with an 18-14 record, though their string of cancellations leaves them backlogged with 40 games in the final half of the season.

Oklahoma City veered back on track to start Thursday’s contest with a 16-16 firework show in the first six minutes. The Thunder’s shot selection was polarizing to that of Wednesday shooting their first 4-of-6 make shots from downtown. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander capped off the first period entering the record books with his 2,000th point in a Thunder uniform — draining a free throw with 0.02 seconds left. San Antonio teed off a 10-2 spurt to kickstart the second quarter, jumping out an early 5 point lead. The Spurs’ run climaxed at 20-6 as Oklahoma City’s 2-of-11 start to the quarter left them deserted. Sides exchanged runs throughout the quarter before settling on a 61-50 Spurs lead.

The Spurs’ 49% field goal shooting ousted the Thunder by 10 percent, coupled with a 30-20 rebounds advantage to buster their advantage. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shirmished around San Antonio defenders for the entirety of the first half, capping his first 17 minutes with 13 points (4-of-9 FG) and 4 assists. SGA’s knack to swim into seas of defenders paid off, chipping in 5-of-6 charity attempts.

Scrappy play highlighted from a Roby punch-steal netted the boys in orange a single-digit lead to climb three minutes into the half. Oklahoma generated a 12-2 scoring run in a span of 3 minutes to narrow their hole to just 70-68, using a powerful Isaiah Roby posterizer over Jakob Poetl to highlight the run. San Antonio’s at the basket, leading to even more empty possessions — and even more given up points, slipping down 4 off of 5 consecutive SGA points. The Spurs offense ignited just at the right time, easing back in to reclaim an 84-81 lead entering the fourth. 

A string of Mike Muscala buckets and a Kenrich Williams slash inside loaded the Thunder up 1 with eight to go. Both teams returned fire with each other until the six minute mark. Relentless distance looks for Muscala and SGA drives garnered Oklahoma City their first stable lead of the game at 8. San Antonio moved in silence erasing their deficit to 2 before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander buried a left-wing triple with Patty Mills draped all over him. San Antonio walked up the floor down 4 with 50 seconds before Mills missed a crucial three. On the other end Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ticked the clock down all the way to 23.5 seconds before draining home two free throws — essentially sealing the game. 

San Antonio outshot Oklahoma City 47.1%-43.5% from the floor on Thursday, even ousting the victors 32.3%-30.0% from downtown. However, they fell victim to the Thunder’s number one strength — free throws and turnovers. The Thunder’s 21-of-26 going from the charity stripe throbbed the Spurs’ 12-of-12 performance. Sloppy ball-handing also plagued San Antonio, stirring out 19 turnovers, a total that towers over their 11 turnover average. Their clumsy play netted Oklahoma City 26 points.

Demar Derozan led San Antonio with 20 points (8-of-21 FG) while guards Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills slipped in for 14 and 13 points respectively.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put icing on his 2,000th point performance dropping a game-high 33 points (11-of-19 FG), 3 rebounds, and 8 assists. SGA didn’t catch a lucky strike from distance, ending of 2-of-4 on the night, though his slashing presence garnered the guard 10 free throws — burying 9. Mike Muscala lived up to his “Money Maker Mike” title draining home 18 points on the night on 7-of-13 shooting. The big relished in deep-range attempts, swashing 4-of-7 long-balls. Lu Dort got it done on both ends finishing with 15 points, and 4 steals, his highest mark since January 15. Just like Oklahoma City’s last run-in with the Spurs the sophomore stretched the floor with 9 of his 16 tries coming outside. Isaiah Roby put his driving skills on platter serving up 12 points, 6 rebounds (3 offensive), and 2 assists on 28 minutes. The 23-year-old plugged in wherever necessary Thursday even contributing 2 steals, his main takeaway though — his poster. Darius Bazley had one of his down games on 3-of-10 shooting for 11 points, yet his rebounding remains a bright spot, leading the team with 10 rebounds.

The Oklahoma City Thunder (15-21) take a week-long sabbatical before their next contest, starting their second-half of play against the Dallas Mavericks (18-16.)

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