OKC Thunder: Poor shooting leads to first bad loss in a very long time

San Antonio Spurs' Patty Mills (8) drives the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder's Luguentz Dort (5) and Steven Adams (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Since winning just 6 of 17 games to begin the season, among the things the Thunder have simply not done — almost — is suffer a bad loss.

Their previous six?

Boston.

Dallas.

Miami.

Toronto.

Lakers.

Philly.

Oddly, only the 76er setback occurred away from home and 18 games ago at that.

You’ve got to go all the way back to a 13-point home-court defeat to Memphis the day after Christmas to find a truly bad one and even it’s become less and less absurd, given the Grizzlies' success since: 16-6 beginning that night to get a game over .500.

Tuesday’s, though, was just plain bad.

San Antonio had lost five straight and 8 of 10 coming and was on the back end of a back-to-back, too, having fallen at Denver on Monday. It was also without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan’s 23 points per game. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, figured to mine motivation wrought from Sunday’s one-point loss to Boston.

Nope.

The Spurs prevailed 114-106 in a game that featured exactly one lead change, occurring when Trey Liles’ finger roll put San Antonio up 6-4 with 9:46 remaining in the first quarter.

Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander aside, the Thunder could not shoot the ball.

Paul netted 31 points on 12 of 18 accuracy, including 5 of 9 from 3-point land. He kept the Thunder afloat early, in a first half that saw San Antonio take a 49-41 edge into the locker room, and then sparked a too-late surge, when the Thunder scored 15 points over the final 2:01, yet were never able to cut an 11-point deficit to any less than six.

Gilgeous-Alexander only took 11 shots, but made six of them, including 2 of 3 from long distance, and finished with 17 points.

Danilo Gallinari finished with 15 points, but made just 4 of 16 from the field. Dennis Schroder added 14, but hit just 5 of 13.

The Thunder weren’t in an excuse-making mood, though everybody found it difficult to blame anything more complicated than bad shooting.

Oklahoma City made 12 of 18 third-quarter shots to make the box score look better, yet fell behind early by making 5 of 21 in the first quarter and 35.7 percent (15 of 42) in the first half.

“We just never really got going,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

“We usually make shots and tonight we just didn’t,” offered Paul.

“I think we were playing the way we want to play for the most part,” reserve forward Abdel Nader said. “It’s just like that sometimes.”

The Thunder scored 36 points in the third quarter to make it a two-point game and scored the first basket of the fourth when Dennis Schroder dished to a cutting Hamidou Diallo for a slam, briefly tying the game 79-79.

Oklahoma City (32-22) missed its next four shots and San Antonio (23-31) made four of its next five, taking an 88-79 edge with 8:47 remaining on Bryn Forbes 3-pointer.

Donovan called timeout.

“We could never quite get over the hump,” he said.

The Thunder were never any closer than four points and were only that for 23 seconds.

It didn’t help that the Spurs shot 72.2 percent (13 of 18) in the fourth quarter, including 7 of 10 non-paint 2-pointers. It’s the most inefficient shot in basketball, just not for San Antonio on Tuesday night.

The Spurs got 25 points from LaMarcus Aldridge, who made 9 of 20 shots, and 25 from Dejounte Murray, who canned 9 of 12. Patty Mills added 20 off the bench.

The Thunder have one game remaining, Thursday at New Orleans, before the All-Star break.

“We just didn’t finish well enough,” Donovan said, “didn’t make enough plays.”

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