SAN ANTONIO – Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pretty much nailed it Saturday night when he assessed his team’s 124-92 dismantling of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series at the AT&T Center.
“I think it was one of those we had a great night and they had one of their bad nights,” Popovich said. “We’ve been there before. It happens to everybody in the NBA, and perhaps that’s what happened tonight.”
For all intents and purposes, the game was over long before the Spurs led 73-40 at halftime. The Silver and Black jumped on the Thunder from the get-go, leading 43-20 after the first period to tie the franchise postseason record for most points in a quarter. The Spurs shot a scorching 81.8 percent in the opening period, hitting 18 of 22 shots and 3 of 4 attempts from the 3-point line. The 18 made field goals tied another franchise playoff record. They also kept OKC scrambling with their crisp ball movement, recording 13 assists in the first quarter.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 15 of his game-high 38 points in the period, hitting 7 of 9 shots. Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 25 points, went 6 for 6 in the opening quarter and had 12 points.
The game was tied only once, at 2-2, and the Spurs never trailed. They led by as many as 43 points in the fourth quarter. Game 2 is at 8:30 p.m. Monday at the AT&T Center.
Popovich also was spot-on when he was asked about Aldridge's stellar performance.
“The ball went in the basket a lot,” Popovich said. “Not trying to be flip, but that’s what happened. He made his shots.”
Aldridge, who hit 18 of 23 shots for the game, had 25 points by halftime. He added 13 in the third quarter before getting pulled by Popovich with 1:38 left in the period. When Aldridge wasn’t torching the Thunder with silky-smooth jumpers, he was posting up in the paint or driving to the basket. He even nailed his first 3-pointer as a Spur.
Aldridge and the Spurs’ other four starters – Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Danny Green – plus key reserve Manu Ginobili did not play in the fourth quarter.
“It was just one of those games,” Aldridge said. “Shots were falling for me, and my teammates were looking for me. I just tried to stay confident the whole game and I ended up making shots.”
Aldridge eclipsed his scoring high in his first season as a Spur by two points. Besides draining his firs 3-pointer as a Spurs, he threw in a left-handed flip shot as he was falling to the floor.
“I caught it nasty,” Aldridge said of the pass that led to his 3-pointer. “I didn’t even shoot it right and it went in. I took some better ones during the season that I felt were good. It was kind of bittersweet for me, for sure.”
And what about the basket he made he made in the paint as he was falling down?
"It was just one of those nights," Aldridge said again. "I can't take credit for it. I was just trying to play confident and ended up making some plays that I probably won't make next game. It was enough for me tonight."
Leonard also had an outstanding game, nailing 10 of 13 shots and adding five rebounds and five assists. Green had one of his best offensive games of the season, scoring 18 points and hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 5 of 6 from the 3-point line. Parker scored only two points, but he chipped in a game-high 12 assists.
The Spurs, who had 39 assists on their 51 made field goals, shot a red-hot 60.7 percent (51/84), and made 60 percent (9/16) of their 3-point attempts. San Antonio finished with nine turnovers and the Thunder had 10.
Leonard and Green anchored a San Antonio defense that limited OKC superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Brooks to a combined 30 points. Serge Ibaka led the Thunder with 19 points, followed by Durant (16), Westbrook (14) and reserve Dion Waiters.
OKC shot 41.5 percent (35/85) for the game, and was only 26.1 percent (6/23) from the 3-point line. Durant, who made 6 of 15 shots, added eight rebounds and six assists. Westbrook was held to 5-of-19 shooting and didn’t get his first field goal until the second quarter, but he finished with a team-high nine assists.
Leonard opened the game guarding Durant and Green was matched up against Westbrook, but they had plenty of help from their teammates in helping the prolific duo in check.
“I think our defense ignited our offense,” Green said. “We were able to get out on the break by making it tough for them on that end of the floor, making them take some tough ones. They obviously didn’t get a rhythm. They were cold.
“Luckily for us, they missed a good amount of them, so we were able to get out on the break and we moved the ball well, took some uncontested shots and everybody kind of got a rhythm going that way and we shot well.”
Green, who has struggled mightily with his 3-point shot throughout most of the season, hit his first four attempts from long distance.
“My job out there is to play defense,” Green said. “If I can make some shots and play some offense and help us in that regard, great, it’s a plus. Tonight, I was able to do so. It felt good to get a rhythm, to get some good looks out there.”
The Silver and Black outscored the visitors 32-26 in the third period to take a 105-66 lead into the final quarter. The Thunder was so discombobulated defensively that they fouled Spurs shooters at the 3-point line four times – all in the first half.
Green warned against taking too much from one game.
“We know that they’re going to come out super aggressive the next game, and we’re not going to shoot as well as we did,” Green said. “We have to be more crisp defensively and offensively take care of the ball and move the ball as well as we did tonight.
“It’s one game. It’s not a momentum thing. Each game is different. Each game is its own playoff series. It’s not like it’s going to carry over to the next game. We’ve got to come out ready and be focused, and with this group of veterans, I’m sure we’ll be professional and not get too high. Lose or win, don’t get too high or too low. Keep an even balance.”
OKC coach Billy Donovan was direct in his postgame news conference.
“Giving San Antonio all the credit in the world,” he said. “I thought they played very, very well. Certainly, we need to play much better all the way around, collectively, than we did today. Certainly, they’ve got it going offensively and, really, Aldridge was really a challenge tonight with how we well he shot the basketball.”
Understandably, Durant and Westbrook were subdued when then spoke to the media after the game.
“It’s over with,” Durant said. “You know, move on. We just move past it and figure out what we need to do better. No crazy emotions. It’s not like we were upset and screaming at each other in the locker room after the game. That’s not going to make things better. We just have to go out there and play better. So, no emotions.”
What do the Thunder have to do better offensively in Game 2?
“Just come out and play harder,” Westbrook said. “They only won one game on their home court and now we have to get ready for Game 2, and try to steal one here. We have to come out with a little more intensity on the court and a little more sense of urgency.”
Spurs-Thunder Western Conference semifinals series schedule
(Spurs lead 1-0)
Game 1: Spurs 124, Thunder 92, Saturday, San Antonio
Game 2: Thunder at Spurs, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Spurs at Thunder, Friday, May 6, 8:30 p.m.
Game 4: Spurs at Thunder, Sunday, May 8, 7 p.m.
x-Game 5: Thunder at Spurs, Tuesday, May 10, time TBD
x-Game 6: Spurs at Thunder, Thursday, May 12, time TBD
x-Game 7: Thunder at Spurs, Sunday, May 15, time TBD
x – if necessary