For all the points, rebounds and assists that filled Kevin Durant’s impressive stat line, it was a defensive play he made that fired up his coach and teammates.
”That’s his first charge of the year,” Russell Westbrook interjected when Durant was asked about drawing an offensive foul against Manu Ginobili in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City’s 107-99 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.
Indeed, it was.
The league’s three-time scoring champion had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season, leading the Thunder into the NBA finals. But it was taking that charge that got his team pumped up.
Durant stepped in front of Ginobili’s drive during a 3 1/2-minute scoreless stretch by San Antonio that allowed Oklahoma City to take the lead for good…
Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point halftime deficit.
The Thunder took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, getting nine of their first 13 points on free throws as the fouls started to pile up for San Antonio - six on the defensive end and three on the offensive end in the first 7 minutes…
Tony Parker finished with 29 points and 12 assists, but only eight of the points and two assists came after San Antonio took a 63-48 halftime lead. Duncan chipped in 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Stephen Jackson hit six 3-pointers and scored 23 points.
– Reported by Jeff Latzke of the Associated Press
In the first round, Oklahoma City swept the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. In the semifinals, the Thunder knocked out league royalty, the Los Angeles Lakers, in five games. And Wednesday’s win over the Spurs was as fine of a finish as we’ve seen.
The Thunder came back from an 18-point first half deficit and outscored the Spurs 59-36 in the second half to earn its first Finals appearance.
“As sad and disappointed as we are, you really have to think about it almost like a Hollywood script for OKC in a sense,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
“They went through Dallas, last year’s NBA champion, then they went through the Lakers, then they went through us. Those three teams represent 10 of the last 13 championships, and now they’re going to go to The Finals and play either Boston or Miami, and that’ll be 11 of the last 13 championships.”
– Reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman
Tony Parker was whizzing en route to 21 points and 10 assists in the first half, Stephen Jackson was doing unspeakable things to pressure, hitting 4 of 4 from 3-point range, and the Spurs were playing with the energy of a team unprepared for the ride to end.
For the Spurs, who became the first team in NBA history to win its first 10 playoff games and not make the Finals, the first half was a final gasp.
After his hot start, Parker finished with 29 points and 12 assists. Duncan went out hard with 25 points and 14 rebounds. The pressure-loving Jackson ended with 23 points and made 6 of 7 on 3-pointers.
An 11-2 run to start the second half got the Thunder back in the game, igniting a 32-18 quarter that doomed the Spurs.
“We changed our body language, our spirit (after halftime),” Brooks said. “We weren’t going to win the game playing the same way.”
– Reported by Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News