LaMarcus Aldridge scored a season-high 38 points in just three quarters of play as the San Antonio Spurs built a 23-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back, burying the Oklahoma City Thunder 124-92 Saturday in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
San Antonio never trailed and shot a withering 81.8 percent from the floor in the first quarter with Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard (25 points) leading the way. Even though Oklahoma City kept its starters in the game until deep into the third quarter, the Spurs dominated throughout, pushing to as much as a 39-point advantage.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be in San Antonio on Monday. Games 3 and 4 will be in Oklahoma City on Friday and May 8, respectively.
Aldridge was 18 of 23 from the field and Leonard hit on 10 of his 13 shots as the Spurs put on a shooting clinic, especially in the first half. Danny Green added 18 points for San Antonio, going 5 of 6 from 3-point range, and Tony Parker dished out 12 assists, eight in the first half.
All 13 of the Spurs players to see action scored.
Oklahoma City was led by Serge Ibaka’s 19 points while Kevin Durant scored 16. Russell Westbrook had 14 points and nine assists, Deon Waiters added 11 points and Steven Adams had 10 rebounds for the Thunder.
Ibaka, Durant and Westbrook were a combined 19 of 49 from the floor, making one more shot as a trio than Aldridge made by himself.
The Spurs, who have won all five of their games this postseason, showed from the opening tip that they brought their “A” game – hitting 10 of their first 11 shots and pushing out to a 21-8 lead at the halfway mark of the first quarter. Leonard had eight points in the opening barrage, including two dunks, as all five of San Antonio’s starters scored.
San Antonio hit on 18 of its 22 field-goal attempts in the first quarter in building a 43-20 advantage, with the 43 points the most scored by the Spurs in a quarter all season and the most allowed by Oklahoma City in its playoff history. The Thunder, conversely, shot just 29 percent from the floor, with Westbrook going 0-for-5.
The Spurs kept pouring it on in the early part of the second quarter with Green, who has struggled with his shot almost all season, pouring in two 3-pointers and hitting a free throw to expand San Antonio’s advantage to 53-24 at the 9:14 mark. Durant did all he could to keep the Thunder in the game, repeatedly putting his head down and driving into the paint to try to score against the stifling and swarming San Antonio defense while racking up 11 points in the half, but the damage was done.
Oklahoma City got to within 65-38 on a short jumper by Stephen Adams that prompted the Spurs to take a time out with 2:36 to play in the half. San Antonio went to Aldridge on its next three offensive possessions and he responded with a left-handed jump hook after powering through Ibaka, a turnaround bank shot with Ibaka draped all over him and a jumper from the elbow, showing his combination of inside and outside prowess.
The Spurs led 73-40 at the half. It was their highest scoring first half of the season. Aldridge (25 points) and Leonard (20) outscored the Thunder by themselves. Parker racked up eight assists in the first 24 minutes of play.
Any chance Oklahoma City had to make a run at the Spurs had to happen in the third quarter and the Thunder outscored San Antonio 11-6 in the first four minutes of the period to get to within 79-51.
Aldridge promptly hit his first 3-pointer of the season (he’s now 1 of 17 from beyond the arc), Leonard made a technical free throw and a bucket and Tim Duncan drove the lane for a layup off another Parker assist and any question about the game’s outcome had been answered.
The fourth quarter was left to the two teams’ bench players and Oklahoma City’s hope that this first game would not leave a hangover from which it can’t recover.