(Photo by Torrey Purvey)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — The San Antonio Spurs came into Thursday night as one of the hottest teams in the league. Riding a nine-game winning streak, they had crept to within a game and a half of the best record in the NBA.
However, waiting on the Spurs in Oklahoma City was a squad thirsty for a victory. With their own losing streak in tow, the Thunder needed to stop the losing momentum they had acquired.
That was enough incentive for Oklahoma City. Led by Russell Westbrook’s 31st triple-double of the season, they pulled out a 102-92 victory over San Antonio at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I thought we did a good job, especially defensively,” Thunder guard Westbrook said. “Making an impact on the ball for 48 minutes, it was good. It means that were on the right track. Obviously throughout the season there are times you go through adversity. The strongest teams stick together through adversity. Tonight was one of those nights when we stuck together.”
Westbrook scored 23 points to go along with 13 assists and 13 rebounds. He is tied with Wilt Chamberlain for the second-most triple-doubles in a season. It was also his first triple-double against the Spurs.
“He says he plays every game like it’s the last game of his career,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I really, really admire that and respect that. Because tomorrow is not promised. He is just focused on right now. What do I have to do right now to help the team right now in this moment. ”
Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo scored 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting in his second game back since missing six with back spasms. Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 14 points and grab 10 rebounds as the Thunder (36-29) ended a four-game losing streak.
Kawhi Leonard finished with 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting for San Antonio. However, he was held to two rebounds, two assists and sat out the entire fourth quarter after being hit in the mouth area. No word on if he will play Saturday against Golden State.
Pau Gasol scored 18 points while LaMarcus Aldridge posted 17 points and six rebounds as the Spurs (50-14) saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end.
“In general, (the Thunder) were the more aggressive team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Nine out of 10 times, that’s what wins basketball games. Besides making shots and not making mistakes. I thought their aggressiveness took us out of a lot of stuff.”
One game after it seemed Westbrook had done all the scoring for Oklahoma City, Steven Adams made sure his presence was felt on the offensive end to start the night. He made 3 of 5 shots as the Thunder took a 29-28 lead after one quarter.
The rest of the Thunder roster got involved as the half went on. Eight players scored at least four points in the first half. That included Doug McDermott, who came off the bench to knock in a quick seven.
Along with Leonard, Gasol carried the Spurs in the second half. They were the only San Antonio players to reach double figures in scoring. Gasol hit both his 3-point attempts in the first half to keep his average just above 50 percent.
The Thunder held a 56-49 advantage at halftime.
The game took on a feisty tone in the third quarter. A shoving match broke out between Adams and Danny Green, who were hit with double technical fouls.
The pushing and talking continued the rest of the game, but it was the Thunder who seemed to feed of it as they never let the Spurs get into the contest.
Popovich said the loss of his MVP candidate had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.
“They’d beat us anyways,” Popovich said. “If Kawhi had played in the fourth and they continued to do what they were doing and we continued to do what we were doing, they would have won anyways.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth