The San Antonio Spurs outlasted the Oklahoma City Thunder 154-147 in double overtime in what may end up being the game of the season in the NBA. The Spurs didn’t miss a 3-pointer for nearly the entire game, the Thunder erased a 16-point deficit to force overtime, LaMarcus Aldridge became the newest member of the NBA’s 50-point club, and Russell Westbrook did Russell Westbrook things … again. In case you missed any of the action, we’ve got you covered.
LaMarcus Aldridge goes off
Coming into the night, Aldridge’s career high in points was 45, set in March. No Spurs player had scored more than that in a game since Tony Parker posted 55 against the Timberwolves in November 2008.
Aldridge blew both of those numbers away Thursday night, going 20-for-33 from the field and 16-for-16 from the free throw line to finish for a career-high 56 points, the third most in Spurs history, behind David Robinson‘s 71-point game in 1994 and George Gervin‘s 63-point game in 1978. The difference between those games and Aldridge’s performance? In both Robinson’s and Gervin’s cases, their teammates were trying to get them as many points as possible on the final day of the season to secure the scoring title — and in both cases, the Spurs succeeded. Aldridge’s 56 points, while taking two overtimes to get to, came in the normal flow of San Antonio’s offense.
— Quincy Pondexter (@QuincyPondexter) January 11, 2019
Aldridge is the ninth player to score at least 50 in an NBA game this season, joining Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and James Harden, who is the only player with multiple 50-point games in 2018-19.
The Spurs’ unlikely 3-point barrage
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has spoken out recently against the NBA’s trend toward more 3-point shots. The Spurs entered the game averaging the fewest 3-point attempts per game in the league, while shooting the highest percentage from the arc. Against the Thunder, the Spurs took that effectiveness to levels never before seen in the NBA.
San Antonio went a perfect 10-for-10 on 3-pointers in the first half, and ended up making its first 14 3-pointers before a miss by Derrick White in the third quarter. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the Spurs’ 14 consecutive made 3s to start the game were the most by a team over the past 20 seasons. San Antonio finished 16-for-19 from 3-point range (84.2 percent). That’s the highest mark for any team to have attempted at least 15, surpassing the previous record by the Bulls in 2005 (14-for-17, 82.4 percent).
Amazingly, none of those 19 3-point attempts came from Aldridge, who became the first player to score at least 56 points without attempting a 3-pointer since Shaquille O’Neal lit up the LA Clippers for 61 points on his birthday in 2000.
Westbrook’s unbelievable triple-double
Westbrook averages a triple-double — and has for the past two-plus seasons — so seeing him post a triple-double isn’t particularly surprising. But what Westbrook did Thursday night certainly was special. The former MVP finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 24 assists, the first player in NBA history to post those numbers in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. The only other player to have a 24-point, 24-assist, 10-rebound game was Isiah Thomas, who did it for the Detroit Pistons in a double-overtime game in 1985.
It was Westbrook’s second career 20-10-20 game, putting him behind only Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson (both with three) in that category, according to Elias. Westbrook’s 24 assists are a career high and the most by any NBA player since Rajon Rondo had 25 for the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 27, 2017. They were also the most by a Thunder player since the team moved to Oklahoma City, and one shy of the franchise record (when including the Seattle years) set by current Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan in 1987.
Points not at a premium
By the time the extra 10 minutes of basketball had been played, the Thunder and Spurs had combined for 301 points, by far the most in a game this season — even with offense up across the board in the NBA. The last game to feature a combined 300 points — not including the league’s annual All-Star Game — was Dec. 7, 2006, when the Suns beat the Nets 161-157 in double overtime.
For the Spurs, the 154 points were their most in a game since dropping 161 against the Paul Westhead-coached Denver Nuggets in 1990. You don’t have to go nearly that far back to find the last time OKC scored 147. The Thunder lit up the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers for 148 in regulation last January.
Given all that, it’s not a surprise that the game went over the pregame over/under line. Way over. 76.5 points over, to be exact, after the game closed at an over/under of 224.5. Tough luck if you bet the under.
Popovich passes Sloan
Lost in the chaos of the two overtimes and the barrage of buckets was the fact that this was Popovich’s 1,222nd career win as a head coach, moving him past Jerry Sloan for third place on the NBA’s all-time list. Next up on the list is Lenny Wilkens, who finished his Hall of Fame career with 1,332 wins. Don Nelson passed Wilkens for the all-time lead in 2010, finishing with 1,335 wins. If Popovich keeps coaching and keeps winning at his career rate, he’d probably pass both Wilkens and Nelson sometime during the 2020-21 season.
New high water marks for Grant, White
Aldridge and Westbrook weren’t the only players setting career milestones. Thunder forward Jerami Grant scored a career-high 25 points, and Spurs guard Derrick White’s 23 were the most he has scored in his young career.
The two also came together — literally — for one of the biggest highlight plays from this game that wasn’t a basket, when White stuffed Grant at the rim, taking a blood-drawing elbow for his efforts.
Derrick White denies Jerami Grant from behind, but he pays the price as an elbow to the face causes him to bleed.