Williams lifts Thunder past Spurs and into West's 10th seed
By RAUL DOMINGUEZ
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Jalen Williams scored 21 points and had 10 assists, and Oklahoma City used a balanced effort on offense without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to beat the San Antonio Spurs 102-90 on Sunday night as they compete for a berth in the Western Conference play-in tournament.
“It’s good to win when Shai doesn’t play as well,” Williams said. “Just kind of lets us know that we are doing the right things and playing hard in that way. I think we’re doing a good job kind of staying together. I think that’s been our biggest thing through the ups and downs.”
Ousmane Dieng had a career-high 17 points and Josh Giddey added 15 for the Thunder, who won their second in a row and fifth in six games. Oklahoma City tied Utah and New Orleans for 10th place in the West at 33-35.
Coming off a 110-96 victory in New Orleans on Saturday, Oklahoma City rested Gilgeous-Alexander for injury management. Gilgeous-Alexander, an All-Star who has missed 11 games this season, recently returned from an abdominal strain.
“The way we started the game was very positive,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “Tough back-to-back with tough travel, short turnaround, finished late last night, lost an hour sleep, played at 6 o’clock. I thought just our readiness compared to earlier in the week (a 31-point loss Wednesday) in Phoenix, we brought the fight to the game and set a good tone early.”
San Antonio’s Zach Collins had 23 points and 11 rebounds for his ninth career double-double. Devonte’ Graham added 20 points.
The Spurs, who shot 10 for 35 on 3-pointers, were without Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones, and lost Malaki Branham to injury midway through the second quarter.
Losing four of their top ball-handlers resulted in the Spurs committing 18 turnovers.
The Thunder only shot 38 percent from the field but had five players score in double figures.
“When everybody is scoring, it makes us harder to guard,” Williams said. “Regardless of how we shot, we were able to move the ball really well, especially in key moments of the game.”
The Thunder went on a 14-0 run bridging the first and second quarters after Sandro Mamukelashvili cut their lead to 22-19 with a cutting layup. Dieng had six points in the run that spanned just over four minutes.
“Good guys that can stretch the floor and do a good of just getting downhill,” Graham said. “Each one of them can get into the paint and finish.”
The Spurs are closing out their worst season since finishing 20-62 in 1997, the season before they selected Tim Duncan with the No. 1 pick.
Spurs point guard Blake Wesley was 1 for 12 from the field while scoring two points in 30 minutes.
Graham said he advised the rookie not to let a rough shooting night impact his confidence.
“Let it go,” Graham said. “I know he will go back to the gym. He might even go to the gym tonight. He goes to the gym almost every day. I just told him to keep shooting. We all go through it.”
Thunder: Oklahoma City snapped a two-game skid in San Antonio. The Thunder’s last victory at the AT&T Center was March 4, 2021.
Spurs: Coach Gregg Popovich was assessed a technical foul with 4:18 remaining. Popovich was screaming at the officials after no foul was called when Collins was smacked across the head on an attempted short jumper. ... Branham left with a sore right shoulder 7:16 remaining in the first half. ... Jones missed the game with a non-COVID illness. ... Collins has 41 3-pointers this season, besting his previous career high of 40 set in 2019 with Portland. Collins was 40 for 121 in 77 games during his second season in the NBA with the Trail Blazers. He is 41 for 111 in 55 games with the Spurs this season.
Thunder: Host Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Spurs: Host Orlando on Tuesday.
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Updated March 12, 2023