It’s a catchphrase likely coming soon to fan T-shirts, Internet memes and the lexicon of the NBA playoffs for the foreseeable future.
”I want some nasty!”
Gregg Popovich didn’t just coin it. He snarled it, and the way his San Antonio Spurs obliged has the Western Conference finals off to a thrilling start.
Manu Ginobili scored 26 points and the Spurs won their 19th in a row – tying the NBA record for longest winning streak kept alive in the playoffs – by rallying in the fourth quarter on the orders of their furious coach to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98 in Game 1 on Sunday night.
It was a tantalizing near-upset for the young Thunder, who came as close as anybody to beating the Spurs for the first time in 46 days. But a nine-point lead didn’t last after the famously mercurial 63-year-old Popovich – the NBA’s Coach of the Year – huddled his lagging team together in the fourth and told them to ”get nasty.” …
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points. Russell Westbrook had 17, and insisted he was OK after taking a spill that was nasty in its own right – face first, bracing his fall with his hands and sitting under the basket for more than a minute while the entire Thunder bench walked across the court to check on their All-Star point guard…
After being held to just 16 third-quarter points, San Antonio scored 39 in the fourth. Westbrook chalked it up to a defensive breakdown that ”got out of hand” but it still left the Thunder in search of the road win they’ll need to in this series to reach the NBA finals for the first time since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2009…
The Spurs matched the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, and with one more will become just the fourth team to surpass 20. Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker shook off a dismal start to finish with 18 points…
On the other end, Oklahoma City’s own Big Three struggled to find its shot early before awakening in the second half. Durant, Westbrook and James Harden at one point through the second quarter were 5 of 21 – a typically ominous stat line for a trio that had been responsible for nearly 70 percent of Oklahoma City’s points through the playoffs so far…
Gary Neal added 12 points and was the only other Spurs player in double figures.
— Reported by Paul J. Weber of the Associated Press
Two classic Ginobili drives in the final 1:57 essentially finished off OKC. The capper, in which he split a pair of defenders before finding the rim, put the Spurs up 96-89 with 1:11 to go.
“That’s Manu’s game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s somebody we depend on to create and make things happen.”
Tony Parker added 18 points, six assists and a season-high eight rebounds, while Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the postseason.
Harder-earned than most, the victory gave the Spurs claim to one of the fourth-longest winning streaks in NBA history.
Heading into the fourth quarter, with the Thunder up nine and rolling, that streak seemed on life support.
OKC already had forced 14 first-half turnovers, undermining any chance the Spurs had of generating offense, and Kevin Durant was heating up on his way to 27 points and 10 boards.
— Reported by Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News
Prior to James Harden’s back-to-back but too-little-too-late 3-pointers in the final four seconds, the Thunder went just 5-of-14 in the fourth quarter. The reason was a heavy dose of one-on-one offense. The Thunder ran few sets and seemingly spent the first 15 seconds of the shot clock on every trip getting the ball up the court and trying to force feed it to Kevin Durant, who Spurs forward Stephen Jackson crowded in crunch time to prevent clean catches.
“We stopped moving the ball,” Harden said. “In that third quarter, we did a great job of moving the ball and getting their defense to move a little bit by hitting wide open shots and wide open layups. In the fourth quarter, we kind of slowed that down and they got a couple of easy transition buckets.”
To this point, the Thunder had been excellent this postseason at closing games. Oklahoma City came in 4-1 in games decided by three points or less and 5-1 in games decided by six points or less. The Thunder has battled back from seven-point, fourth-quarter deficits twice in these playoffs, as well as two other 13-point, fourth-quarter deficits.
— Reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman