The San Antonio Spurs have taken a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 101-98 home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Leading the way for the Spurs was Manu Ginobili who tallied 26 points, five rebounds and three assists while shooting 9-14 from the floor. Other contributors for San Antonio predictably included Tim Duncan and Tony Parker who combined for 34 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists.
Oklahoma City had their chances in this game, leading comfortably at 3/4 time before giving up a whopping 39 points in the final quarter. The Thunder’s trio of Durant, Westbrook and Harden all made solid contributions with KD’s 27 points and 10 rebounds the highlight, however it wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught late.
Early in the fourth quarter it was an unlikely leader for the Spurs that got them back into the game. Tiago Splitter made two nice shots before setting a charge on an out-of-control James Harden. That turnover led to yet another opportunity for Splitter as he rolled to the basket before being fouled. Although he missed both free throws, the 6’11″ Brazilian had helped close the gap to seven and had set the tone for the period.
San Antonio’s first four minutes of the final quarter were beautiful. Parker was driving and creating but their defense had OKC on their heels. Kevin Durant was denied the ball by Stephen Jackson and played extremely physically. It’s hard to say if he can keep that up all series, but for at least this short stint, Jackson was the Durant-stopper. The crowd could see the deficit getting smaller and smaller and with every basket got louder and louder.
The Spurs completed their gorgeous four minutes with a Parker jumper off a Jackson screen and the game was tied.
The next four minutes saw San Antonio absolutely kill Oklahoma on the pick and roll. Time after time the Spurs were able to get high percentage shots as the Thunder were left flat-footed. When Duncan converted a pair of free throws with just over three minutes remaining, the Spurs had edged out to a six point lead and never looked back.
Poise was everything in this game and the Spurs drew first blood in dramatic fashion.
Game 2 will require adjustments from both teams as OKC search for answers and hope their big men don’t get in foul trouble again like they did in this one. For San Antonio the method will be the same, make Durant earn everything he gets and look to crowd Harden and Westbrook, forcing them into bad shots.
It’s still looking like a sensational series, regardless of the fact San Antonio just lodged their 19th straight win. This one is still anyone’s and a win and subsequent series split in Game 2 will energise Oklahoma City.