Familiar Territory: The Thunder Has Been Down 1-0 In A Spurs' Series Twice Before

Sunday, May 1st 2016, 4:25 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger

Saturday night’s Spurs’ smack down on the Thunder is still fresh on the minds of OKC fans everywhere, and it’s sure to linger at least another day until Game 2 arrives on Monday night. It was a brutal 124-92 loss, but in the end it only counts as one game in a seven game series.

This isn’t the first time the Thunder has been beaten by the Spurs in Game 1 of a playoff series, so here’s a look back to see how the Thunder responded in the two previous series against San Antonio.  

Western Conference Finals Game 1: May 28, 2012

A long time ago, when the Thunder still had the “Bearded Assassin” coming off the bench, the Thunder lost a close 101-98 battle against the Spurs in a game where Gregg Popovich’s phrase, “I want some nasty!” became famous.

The Thunder led by nine points in the game, but the Spurs rallied in the fourth quarter—thanks to their coaches motivation— to win their 19th straight game as San Antonio continued its tear as the hottest team in the NBA. Manu Ginobili torched OKC for 26 points in the win.

Not only did the Thunder drop Game 1, but they were completely dominated in Game 2 as the Spurs were shooting lights out throughout the first three quarters and led by as many as 22 points.

But despite facing an 0-2 deficit, the Thunder made the necessary switches before Game 3, and OKC ripped off four straight wins, including a Game 5 win in San Antonio on its way to the NBA Finals.

Western Conference Finals Game 1: May 20, 2014

Without the services of Serge Ibaka due to a sudden calf injury sustained in the second round of the playoffs, the Spurs had their way in the paint without the presence of OKC’s top shot blocker. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 28 and 25 points apiece, but the rest of the starting lineup—Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins—added little offensive help throughout the game.

San Antonio led by seven points going into the fourth quarter, and outscored the Thunder by ten points in the final frame to win 122-105. Tim Duncan led the way with 27 points while Tony Parker was limited with a hamstring injury in the Spurs’ win, but still managed to score 14 points and dish 12 assists.

It was a tough loss for the Thunder, who then went on to lose Game 2 by 35 points and felt hopeless without Ibaka. Once again the Thunder faced a 0-2 deficit in a series against the Spurs, but luckily there was a surprise announcement made by the Thunder: Ibaka would return earlier than expected.

“Air Congo” went on to be a motivating force as he played through injury and helped propel the Thunder to winning games 3 and 4 in OKC. But Game 5 in San Antonio went as bad as Games 1 and 3 did. The Spurs rocked the Thunder by 28 points and went on to win Game 6 in overtime to win the series.

There’s still hope

It’ll be hard to forget how Saturday night’s game went, but the Thunder still have hope moving forward in this series. If Billy Donovan can develop a game plan to defend the Spurs while also making minor tweaks to his rotation, the Thunder may be able to find a way to steal Game 2 in San Antonio.

If that were to happen, the feel surrounding the series would definitely change. Instead of critics claiming the Thunder has no hope, OKC would suddenly have home court advantage in the series with Games 3 and 4 seeming very winnable inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena.