Thunder, Spurs meet again after wild double-OT game
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Lost a bit in the shuffle of LaMarcus Aldridge's 56 points and Russell Westbrook's 24-point, 24-assist triple-double in the San Antonio Spurs' double-overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday was the play of Spurs' second-year point guard Derrick White.
White had a career-high 23 points and added eight assists with just two turnovers in the 154-147 win.
"I just want to go out there and contribute in any way possible," White told reporters after the game.
"These last couple of weeks, I've been feeling more confident and comfortable out there. Each game, I just try to get better and better and try to help the team win."
White will try to continue his progress Saturday when the Thunder and Spurs meet again, this time in Oklahoma City.
In Thursday's game, White was 1 of 3 from behind the 3-point line as San Antonio was a blistering 16 of 19 from behind the arc.
San Antonio isn't the only team with a second-year guard gaining confidence.
The Thunder's Terrance Ferguson, forced into the starting lineup thanks to the prolonged injury of Andre Roberson, has been a top-flight defender all year but has struggled on offense.
Ferguson was shooting just 30.2 percent from behind the 3-point line before going 11 of 14 in the last two games, including 7 of 10 in the loss at San Antonio.
"If he's hot like that, obviously he's got to shoot with the same confidence on a nightly basis," Thunder star Paul George said. "But it really spreads things out for us on a nightly basis, and defenses have to account for him."
The Spurs are likely to be without forward Rudy Gay, who has missed the past three games with a sprained right wrist.
Gay is San Antonio's third-leading scorer with 13.6 points per game and averages 6.6 rebounds.
"We miss the dynamic skills he brings to the court on both ends -- his scoring, rebounding, everything," guard DeMar DeRozan told the San Antonio Express-News. "It definitely shakes things up a bit when he is not here."
The Spurs has won six of their past seven games, while the Thunder have lost three in a row.
But in Thursday's loss, there were plenty of reasons for hope that went well beyond Ferguson's offensive production.
Westbrook had 24 points, 24 assists and 13 rebounds, to become the first player in league history to post those numbers in a game. It was Westbrook's second career 20-20-10 performance. Only Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson have posted those numbers more often in their career; both did it three times.
"I thought Russell connected our entire team," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after Thursday's game. "He got everybody shots and we played well offensively."
The Thunder could be limited inside Saturday, with starting center Steven Adams having rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter of Thursday's loss and Nerlens Noel still in the NBA's concussion protocol.
Adams returned to the game in overtime but was moving gingerly.
"It's still there, so I made it work," Adams said.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 11, 2019