AP Basketball Writer
Eds: With AP Photos.
There was a possession where LaMarcus Aldridge grabbed a defensive rebound, outlet-passed to Manu Ginobili, who then turned and fired a 70-foot strike to Kawhi Leonard for a dunk.
The whole play took about 3 seconds. And the ball never touched the floor.
Not everything came that easily for San Antonio in the opener of the Spurs’ Western Conference semifinal series against Oklahoma City. It only seemed that way, as they rolled to a 124-92 win and will now look to take a 2-0 lead when the series resumes in San Antonio on Monday night.
“Now we’ve got to get back to the drawing board and see what we’ve got to do better to get ready for Game 2,” Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook said. “Come out and play with a different mindset.”
That would be a start.
The three worst playoff losses of Kevin Durant and Westbrook’s time together in Oklahoma City all have one thing in common — they all happened in San Antonio.
The Spurs won by 35 on May 21, 2014, followed that up eight nights later with a 28-point win and now added a 32-pointer for good measure. And the Game 1 margin was the biggest defeat Thunder coach Billy Donovan has dealt with in more than 17 years.
It was Feb. 10, 1999 — 660 games ago for Donovan — when his Florida Gators lost 91-56 to Tennessee. That Gator team recovered and won four of its next five games, and if the Thunder are going to get out of this series they’ll have to do something similar.
“I think the guys in that locker room are pretty competitive,” Donovan said. “I think they’re going to want to come back and respond.”
The key for the Thunder in Game 2 will be stopping Aldridge. They had no answers for him in Game 1; Aldridge scored 38 points and didn’t even play 30 minutes.
When the Spurs acquired him, it was evident that San Antonio would again be a major title favorite. It’s working out exactly as San Antonio planned.
“I don’t know an exact date,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said when asked how long it took Aldridge to get comfortable with the Spurs. “It was a progression. Any new player in a new program, it’s a progression. It takes a little bit of time to get comfortable with the system and secondly, with teammates — who does what, when, where, how, all that kind of thing. It was just a steady kind of improvement and recognition as the year went on.”
If players get asked to play big minutes Monday, that shouldn’t be an issue. Game 3 isn’t until Friday night in Oklahoma City.
A look at Game 2:
Thunder at Spurs, San Antonio leads 1-0. 9:30 p.m., TNT
It’s been long established that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are one of the league’s all-time trios. But the sheer margin by which they’re separating themselves from some of the others on that list is getting to be staggering.
Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won 600 games together for the Los Angeles Lakers. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish won 632 in their days as Boston Celtics teammates.
It took a long time for those numbers to be passed. It’s going to take a real long time before anyone even comes near what Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have done — now with 700 wins together after Saturday’s Game 1 triumph.
Everything worked for the Spurs in the opener. They had 39 assists and all but one of their players who got minutes had at least one — the exception being Andre Miller. And the Spurs are now 43-1 at home this season, 34-0 when Duncan is in the lineup.
And for all the adjustments Oklahoma City will make, figuring out how to get better against Leonard’s defense probably should be foremost. Leonard spent much of Game 1 guarding Westbrook, helping force him into a 5-for-19 night from the floor. Meanwhile, Leonard and Aldridge combined to make 28 of 36 shots.
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