By Michael Doutey
The Oklahoma City Thunder avenged Thursday’s double overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs with a 122-112 win Saturday night over the Spurs. The Thunder snap their three game losing skid with last nights win and move to 26-16 on the season and hold a half-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers for the third seed in the Western Conference.
The Thunder bench played possibly their best of the season against the Spurs, who have one of the best bench scoring units in the league. The Thunder second unit, lead by Dennis Schröder (who we will dive deeper into next), was excellent. The bench combined for 48 points. The Thunder starters struggled to score in the first half and Abdel Nader and Patrick Patterson both kept OKC in the game with their scoring. Nader was perfect from the field, going 6-6 overall and 1-1 from behind the arc for 15 points. Patterson shot 5-7 from the floor and 3-3 from three. Nader has really stepped up since he’s been given rotation minutes. Nader is shooting 43 percent from deep this season and appears to be a real option for OKC, doing what we all hoped Alex Abrines would become. Patterson’s game is a welcome sign, but we’ve seen this before. He reminds us just how impactful he could be before he goes back to missing shots. He is a streaky shooter where he has wild slumps for a month or so and then he catches fire. Hopefully he is on the uptick because that could unlock a ton for this team.
Dennis Schröder exploded in the second half and was the main reason the Thunder put away the Spurs in the third quarter. Schröder came into the second half with zero points on 0-4 shooting. He’s really struggled shooting lately and his first half was probably the worst he’s looked over the past couple weeks. But then came the third quarter and Schröder came to life, scoring nine points in five minutes. Schröder continued his hot play, scoring 10 points and dishing out four assists in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 19 points, six assists and four steals. Hopefully this means Schröder is back to how he was playing before his shooting slump.
Terrance Ferguson is really starting to turn into a nice player. He isn’t destined to become a superstar or anything like that. But I am very hopeful that he can become the 3-and-D wing all Thunder fans have dreamt of. Over the past three games he’s shot 13 of 17 from three and has still defended at a high rate. He is getting better and better on both ends and he is only 20 years old. The Thunder might have their Andre Roberson replacement already. He isn’t an elite defender like Dre, but he has tons of room to grow on both sides of the floor. His offense is already miles ahead of Roberson. While there had been serious growth in his game, I do expect him to still have growing pains. But he is getting closer and closer to becoming a guy who the Thunder can really count on.
The Thunder announced that they will retire Nick Collison’s jersey on March 20th. This is a really cool gesture and a no brainer that Nick should be the first Thunder player in history to have his number retired. The next should be Russell Westbrook. But after Nick and Russ should be Kevin Durant. Yes, I know. But what KD meant to the growth of OKC and the recognition he brought to OKC should be honored. He spent eight great seasons here and it would be an excellent way for the organization, the team and the city to mend fences with KD. It is not something that should happen right away. But in 20 years or so, that would be an excellent time to do that. The Thunder are a classy organization and I think it is something that should happen.
The Thunder will be back in action on Tuesday night in Atlanta to take on the Hawks. Tip is set for 6:30 p.m. inside State Farm Arena.