Thunder beat Spurs to take 3-2 series leadPosted by Inside Hoops
Look who’s unstoppable now.
Forget that incredible San Antonio streak of 20 straight wins. That’s ancient history, and the way the Oklahoma City Thunder have taken complete command of the Western Conference finals, the Spurs might soon be finished themselves.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points and the Thunder are on the brink of the NBA Finals, beating the Spurs 108-103 in Game 5 on Monday night and going from an 0-2 hole to moving within a victory of a series knockout. Their first chance will be Wednesday night at home, where they haven’t lost all season.
”We never thought we’re supposed to wait our turn,” Durant said. ”Coach always emphasizes that with every opportunity that you step on the floor. It’s a great opportunity to get better. To get to our dream.”
Russell Westbrook added 23 and the Thunder took a 3-2 lead in a wildly entertaining Western Conference finals. Looking invincible while carrying a 20-game winning streak a week ago - the fourth-longest in NBA history - the Spurs have lost three straight and are on the verge of a stunning collapse.
Manu Ginobili scored 34 in a smashing return to the starting lineup, and the switch showed just how much Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knew his team might be in trouble. The only way the Spurs would have considered it a success is had they won, and that chance went clanging off the back of the rim with 4.9 seconds left with Ginobili missed an off-balance 3.
Ginobili then walked to the scorer’s table, made a fist and hammered it down.
”It wasn’t a great shot, but it wasn’t a bad one,” Ginobili said. ”It just didn’t go in.”
It was the Spurs first loss at home since April 11.
– Reported by Paul J. Weber of the Associated Press
In making his first start since March 23, Ginobili poured in 34 points, churning the Spurs — and the whited-out home crowd — into a frenzy of energy.
It was not enough to stagger the young Thunder, growing up before everyone’s eyes. In fact, they barely blinked.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points in leading OKC to the brink of the Finals, but his running mates, first Russell Westbrook (23 points, 12 assists) then James Harden (20), made the two biggest shots down the stretch.
A 13-point OKC lead with 5:17 to play had been whittled to two on a pair of Ginobili foul shots when Westbrook, oft-maligned for his fourth-quarter shot selection, rose and swished a 17-footer.
After a Tim Duncan bucket on the other end, Harden stepped back on Kawhi Leonard and buried a tough 3-pointer to make it 106-101 with 28.8 seconds left.
“We stuck together,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said. “We had a couple bad stretches, but we didn’t break.”
– Reported by Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News
After Westbrook’s jumper, the Thunder got Tony Parker to miss a 16-foot jumper, which Westbrook contested wonderfully without fouling. Westbrook missed a driving layup at the other end, and Duncan made the Thunder pay by banking in a shot on a cross-match that had Harden covering him in the post.
The Thunder led 103-101 with 50.1 seconds left.
The AT&T Center crowd was on its feet. The noise was darn near deafening.
Harden then sent everyone home hoping this series returns to San Antonio for a Game 7. He hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc over Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard with just two seconds left on the shot clock.
It gave the Thunder a 106-101 lead with 28.8 seconds remaining.
– Reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman