A critical game in the series. Spurs hold a season record of 34-5 at home and were yet to suffer defeat on their home floor in the post season. The Thunder have been for the past few years a good team away from home and playing a lot of games in close succession. This one had all the ingredients of a classic.
Thunder 108 – Spurs 103:
A crucial game for the series opened in spectacularly odd fashion. Within 30 seconds Ibaka was in foul trouble and went to the bench for Collison for the rest of the 1st quarter. Then at the 10minute mark OKC already found themselves in foul trouble and were in the bonus with a huge chunk of the quarter in jeopardy. However the Thunder didn’t panic, adjusted its defense and took the game to the aging Spurs. With only Manu Ginobli seemingly willing to attack the teeth of the defense (who started his first game all playoffs, desperation?) the Spurs failed to capitalise on the foul trouble and OKC close out the opening period 26-21; spurred on by Collison’s 6pts on 3-3 shooting, foul trouble to Diaw and Duncan while also forcing the often vaunted Spurs ball-handlers into 8 turnovers. Even better for OKC was that they had done all this with Durant shooting just 1-6.
|TD battled foul trouble early on.|
The Spurs started to look almost flustered by the occasion, including Popovich, who while in the 5th game of these Western Conference Finals still couldn’t seem to make up his mind regarding his rotation. He had previously mentioned getting his best players more floor time to combat the Thunder but it didn’t seem as if he was sure who exactly this was. Green was benched and struggling. Neal was way wide on all his shots. He brought on Bonner for a grand total of 50seconds before subbing him back out.DeJaun Blair, the “Thunder Killer”, managed a whopping 6minutes. While Pop figured out his desired rotation, due to foul trouble the Thunder brought on Cook for his first meaningful appearance and he swiftly contributed 8points (2 3′s) in 3minutes to stretch the game to 40-32 midway through the 2nd. Manu kept the Spurs close throughout, as he was up to 14points by halftime and single-handedly keeping San Antonio within striking distance. That half closed 52-44 and it felt like it could have been a lot more with SA turning it over 11 times and shooting just 39%. Westbrook had proven that he could run the team, besides more struggles shooting he posted 10pts/7ast/2tos/3stls at the half, with KD on just 5/4 and failing to register a shot attempt in the 2nd quarter.
OKC started after the after with two straight turnovers, as Spurs capitalised with a 6-0 run to pull it to 52-50. This seemed to stun the Thunder as the ball movement ground to a halt, Serge got in quick foul trouble again (the 8minute mark). Spurs seemed to sense a momentum shift and duly picked up on it continuing the run to go on a 18-4 run, with again Ginobli being the catalyst. Again the quarter was plagued by foul trouble as Sefolosha, Ibaka and Duncan found themselves on 4 fouls. Just as the spurs sensed they could take this in the quarter Oklahoma went on a furious rally, going 20-5 to close out the quarter (81-72) on a turnaround fade-away by Durant at the buzzer. Westbrook and Durant ran the pick and roll to perfection toward the end of the 3rd, giving the Spurs defense fits as the two best players opened up the whole floor for their team.
|“He’s on fire!” ouch it hurts!|
Entering the 4th quarter the Spurs seemed down and out as the Thunder continued their dominance stretching the game to 101-88. Then Ginobli decided to have one last push, hitting 3 pointers, driving to the rim and setting up teammates to pull it to a 2 point game. Duncan and Parker contributed but never felt like they were dominating their defensive assignment, instead just playing a role instead of a “big 3″ force they need to be to win. Ginobli did find help from Stephen Jackson as he brought intensity and hustle on both ends of the court, while contributing 13points (3 of which were beyond the arc) as he seemed to step up when nobody else would.
|“Big Game” James?|
Crunch time. Down 2 and with Durant struggling to find space in the 4th like he did in the 3rd, Harden had the ball at the top of the 3 point line trying to create for KD. With 7 seconds to go and nothing on he checked the shot clock, dropped a crossover on Leonard and rose up for the 3. Nothing but net. Game set and match as the Thunder closed out perhaps their most impressive victory of the postseason yet 108-103.
Big 3 Comparison:
Parker – 20pts/4ast/4rbs/5TO’s Westbrook – 23pts/12ast/4rbs/4stls/6TO’s
Ginobli – 34pts/7ast/6rbs/5TO’s Harden – 20pts/4rbs/3ast/2stl
Duncan – 18pts/12rbs/3ast Durant – 27pts/4rbs/5ast/3stl
The once daunting Spurs, most peoples favorites to win only a week ago, now find themselves staring up at the young energetic Thunder needing a win at Oklahoma’s fortress to stay alive. While OKC seem to be transitioning from young aggressive upstarts to kings of the west way ahead of any optimistic schedule. Now is a big test, the close out game at home, to make the NBA finals against the most successful team in basketball of the last 15years.
|“TD is older than my shirt?” Hi5!|
Prediction for Game 6 – OKC by 6.
Written by Luke Gurrey
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