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In a bit of comedy during the pre-game warm-ups for both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder tonight before game six of the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs' Danny Green took some time to give his own version of the famous Metta World Peace elbow that knock James Harden out for several games in the final stretch of the NBA regular season. You can check his antics below:
No one asked Stephen Jackson, but he has a message for the Oklahoma City Thunder anyway. The San Antonio Spurs are going nowhere. The current score of 34-20 tells the same story, but here you can see Jackson mouthing the words early in tonight's game six:
Luckily for the San Antonio Spurs, the early authoritative dunk by Russell Westbrook over Tony Parker didn't help the OKC Thunder set an early tone. Instead, they've come out with guns blazing. Still that doesn't take away from how incredible Westbrook's early dunk was in game six tonight. Check out the highlight below:
Turnovers have been a bit out of control for both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals at some point. For the Spurs, they’re definitely focused on ball control more than ever after a horrific 21 turnovers in game 5. However, Kevin Durant says the Thunder are focused on the same thing — making sure every possession counts, since it’s all on the line in game six tonight.
"That’s our main focus, concentrating on every possession, how hard we’re playing every possession," Durant said today. "He (Brooks) always says that the easiest thing to do in basketball is play hard, and the hardest thing to do is play well. If we go out there and play hard, we’ll give ourselves a chance."
For that to happen, everyone has to be of one mind. Scott Brooks hammered home that point to the team between games five and six, and Durant said the message came home loud and clear. Everyone is ready to play their part, limit mistakes and contribute to the whole.
"Everything has to be about the team," Durant said. "Everything has to be with the group. That’s something we’ve done throughout this whole Playoffs and this whole year. It’s always been about the team and guys have sacrificed a lot. We’re just headed out there with a mindset that every possession is important. That’s the type of approach that we need to take. We’ll just leave everything out on the floor and see what happens."
Both teams know how much is on the line tonight, so it should be another incredible game. Game six starts at 8pm CT.
The San Antonio Spurs are expected to be very aggressive tonight knowing that they are clinging to any slim hope of moving on past the Western Conference Finals to the NBA Finals over the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the last few games, they’ve moderated their intensity, but the team’s star shooting guard Manu Ginobili says there is no question about how they will look for all 48 minutes in tonight’s game six.
"We all understand it is mandatory that minute one we are going to be as aggressive as, for example, minute 26 two days ago when we really jumped on them and started to be more aggressive," said Ginobili. "Because if we are flat and turn the ball over like we did, in this arena we are not going to win. So we have to be really active and sharp."
Ginobili is also expected to start tonight. Expect every Spurs starter to play maximum minutes tonight unless foul trouble or fatigue really sets in. Given the all-or-nothing nature of tonight’s game, it will be interesting to see how OKC responds as well.
Just a few days ago, the San Antonio Spurs were rolling over the Oklahoma City Thunder and talk of a sweep was making its way around NBA circles. Now the Thunder have turned the tables and Kevin Durant and company hope to close out the series in game six of the Western Conference Finals.
All eyes will be on Gregg Popovich and his ability to make the right adjustments to the suddenly red hot Thunder. It's amazing how the momentum has completely changed in the series, but the Thunder stars are playing great basketball and even lesser known players like Daequan Cook are rising at the right time. OKC has San Antonio on their heels, so Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will be expected to limit turnovers and match the scoring ability of Durant and Westbrook.
Here's the info you'll need to catch tonight's game.
Following the Oklahoma City Thunder's third straight victory against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, Thunder beat writer Darnell Mayberry came up with this list of stats that tell the story of what we saw in OKC's Game 5 victory.
Of course, it being the third straight win and one that put them up 3-2 in the series is the most important one, but just to reflect, consider all of these:
5: Lead changes and five ties.
12: Steals by the Thunder
14: Biggest lead by Oklahoma City.
17: Turnovers by the Thunder, four coming in the final four minutes.
21: Turnovers by San Antonio, leading to 28 Thunder points.
27: Points scored by Kevin Durant, 22 coming in the second half.
34: Points scored by Spurs guard Manu Ginobili
83.5: Percent of the time that the team that wins Game 5 in a series tied 2-2 goes on to win the series.
OKC seems to be in the driver's seat now, with the athletic superiority and a defensive approach that seems to be quite different from earlier in the series. An NBA Finals appearance could be next for the young group if they keep playing this way.
The talent has been here for some time. Even last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder made it this far before collapsing against the Dallas Mavericks. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and others were nearly this talented last year. It’s just a matter of growing up, and that was the biggest question facing the trio of stars on the Thunder roster. When it would happen, the power structure would undoubtedly change.
It appears that it’s just now happening in the Western Conference Finals before our very eyes against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were the savvy veteran team ignited by a few new additions in Kawhi Leonard and company who were on a potentially historic role. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili make a nice trio of their own and they’d won 20 games in a row and were even threatening to steam roll their way through another round of the NBA Playoffs.
Then came game three and the trip back to Oklahoma City. The Thunder won both home games and then upset the Spurs on their home court last night in game five, holding the upper hand for the rest of the series. Nothing is finished yet, of course, so it’s too early to speak of any series victory. But the Thunder have undoubtedly displayed a toughness, focus and determination typically reserved for the most seasoned teams. Someone, in short, has grown up.
"We talk about effort with our guys all the time," Brooks said after the game. "There is physical effort and there is mental effort. We all have enough in our tanks to be physical for 48 minutes. That’s easy to do… Mental effort is what gets you to win games against this team because they keep coming at you."
Harden agreed that the team was mentally prepared coming in and never panicked in the game or the series.
"There were times in this game where we could have folded," Harden said. "We were up I think nine or so in the third quarter and they went on a run and took the lead. We could have folded, but we’re family so we stuck together, stuck with it and made our run and took the lead and went from there."
"Our team showed mental toughness," Westbrook added. "Everybody stayed together. We got stops and we finally made some shots. And I think that was the turning point for us to see how the game was going to turn out."
Durant was already talking everyone down from the rafters immediately following the game, realizing the work that was still ahead of them. After all, it was only three games ago that the Spurs were supposedly making quick work of OKC.
"We don’t want to get too high for this win," Durant said. "We know that we still have a tough road ahead. But we came here, we wanted to get a win on their home floor. That’s what it (will take) for us to advance or to get to where we want to get to. We knew this was an important game."
Now they head back to OKC to try to finish the Spurs on their home court. The Spurs will be ready for the challenge, but it appears any mental edge the veteran team had over the fresh young legs of the Thunder has now been matched.
He had eight points in four minutes. He hit two critical threes down the stretch and he was perfect from his short time on the floor. There’s no doubt that Daequan Cook made the most of his time on the court in game five of the Western Conference Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. In fact, the Thunder might not have won 108-103 without him.
After the game, his teammates and head coach were singing his praises. Yet no one seemed surprised that he was able to step up in the national spotlight when the game was on the line.
“He’s a true professional,” Harden said after the game. “Daequan works all the time on that shot. That’s what the Thunder is about, is work. When his name was called him came in and hit two big threes and got that floater. He gave us some very good minutes when he was in.”
His head coach agreed. Scott Brooks praised Cook after the game for his ability to maintain focus in spite of time on the bench.
“DC (Cook), I give him a lot of credit,” Brooks said. “One of the toughest things to do in this league is to stay ready. Everybody talks about it and he’s done that. He’s worked and cheered and did everything in his power to get an opportunity to be ready and he did a great job.”
Cook averaged 5.5 points in the regular season for the Thunder.
When they left the arena Monday night, they were one game away from themselves going to the finals. Oklahoma City won its third straight game in the series, taking down the Spurs 108-103. The win was OKC's first in San Antonio since 2009 and broke a 16-game home winning streak for the Spurs.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Russell Westbrook had 25 points on 9-for-24 shooting, along with 12 assists. James Harden scored 20 points, including a clutch three-pointer in the final minute. He also was a +22. Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 34 points.
OKC led 52-44 at halftime, but the Spurs opened the second half on a 23-9 run to take a 67-61 lead. The Thunder withstood the momentum shift and turned it back, going on a 20-5 run to end the quarter with an 81-72 lead. OKC led 101-88 with 4:35 remaining and was closing in on a win, but a 13-2 San Antonio run cut the lead to two points with under a minute to go.
That's when James Harden hit a step-back three-pointer with the shot-clock winding down. It wasn't over, as a turnover gave the Spurs a chance to tie down by three, but Ginobili missed an off-balance three and the Thunder held on for the victory.
The series was seemingly over after the first two games and the Thunder heading home. Going back to Oklahoma City, some will again think it's over, but with a different outcome.
Russell Westbrook leads OKC with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, along with seven assists and three steals. Kevin Durant has five points on just 1-for-6 shooting. The role players have been big for the Thunder. Serge Ibaka has seven points in nine minutes, while battling early foul trouble. Daequan Cook scored eight points in just two minutes, making all three shot attempts. James Harden has seven points. Manu Ginobili leads the Spurs with 14 points.
Back on home court, the Spurs got off to a quick start, taking an 8-2 lead and pushing it to 15-8 later in the quarter. But the Thunder weathered the early storm and answered with an 18-6 run to finish the quarter with a 26-21 lead. With OKC leading 40-36 with seven minutes left in the second, the Thunder went on a 10-0 run to break the game open before the Spurs finished on an 8-2 run.
Two games on the road in San Antonio equaled an early hole in the Western Conference Finals for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The next two games at home leveled the playing field. So far, no team can make a statement away from their familiar terrain and the fans behind them. The Thunder will try to do take their adjustments and game plan from games three and four on the road tonight back in San Antonio.
Bomani Jones says that the Thunder made all the right moves recently, but the challenge will be replicating that task. He writes:
Kevin Durant closed out a fourth quarter in spectacular fashion. Scott Brooks made adjustments Popovich has yet to capably respond to. Kendrick Perkins scored 13 points in the first half of Game 4. Serge Ibaka nearly set a record for shooting perfection that same night. There was real-live ball movement. The Thunder, basically, did everything at home that it didn't do on the road.
The question -- how many of those things are likely to happen again? Durant doing it again seems most probable, but even his greatness has been prone to lulls. But here's something else that won't happen again -- Russell Westbrook and James Harden combining for 18 points, as they did in Game 4. The Thunder's back in it. The fun will be seeing how they might manage to stay there.
The Thunder will take this newfound momentum back to San Antonio tonight in game five of the Western Conference Finals.
After each won two games on their home floor, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder take aim at each other again on Monday night. The winner of Game 5 in San Antonio will be just one win away from the NBA Finals.
While the Thunder snapped the Spurs' overall winning streak, Tim Duncan's crew has yet to drop a game since a loss on April 11 to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder have not won there since November 14, 2010. They will need at least one road win if they would like to advance.
Here's all the information you'll need to catch Monday's pivotal Game 5:
Game Time: 8 p.m. CT
Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
TV Coverage: TNT
Kevin Durant is already an NBA superstar. He's a scoring champion. He's an All-NBA player. He's an All-Star, MVP candidate, fan favorite and franchise icon. In short, he's already reached the elite level that very few players can ever reach. The only question about his future in the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame is whether or not his career will have the necessary longevity and his playoff success. Consider the second question answered.
Not every Hall of Fame player had a title on their belt. Some of the game's greats never had a chance to play for a team that could win it all. Some players had to play when others were also at their best. Karl Malone or Patrick Ewing had to play in the same era of the NBA as Michael Jordan. That doesn't negate their own incredible abilities. But Kevin Durant is doing everything he can to not only grab a title but show that he can dominate at the most clutch instances the NBA can throw at him.
His incredible performance in game four was just another dazzling display of his scoring prowess, athleticism and ability in all facets of the game. Royce Young celebrates this when he writes:
Game 4 was one of those games you file away and plan to call upon 15 years from now when you're talking about KD. Regardless of what happens next in this series, Durant's Game 4 was legendary-ish. The Thunder had blown a 15-point second half lead watching the Spurs close it to two and put the pressure on. But the Thunder put the ball, the game, the series in KD's hands and he did what he does. Kid Clutch was Kid Closer, embracing the responsibility and excelling with ample amounts of pressure.
When all was said and done, Durant led the Thunder in their game four win over the San Antonio Spurs with 36 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists and a perfect night from the free throw line with 9 for 9 shooting. He stayed on the court for 44 minutes, shot an impressive 13 of 20 overall and performed when his team needed it most.
No matter what happens, Durant has already established everything he needs for all-time-great consideration in the NBA. The kid is making history and it's unfolding before our eyes.
Serge Ibaka had an incredible night for the Oklahoma City Thunder last night as they evened the series against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals at two wins apiece. With 26 points, Ibaka was an incredible 11 for 11 from the floor, including this dunk seen below, that provided yet another stellar performance from an unexpected source after Game 3 featured a Thabo Sefolosha breakout.
Ibaka finished with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Check out this play of the night below:
The scoring came from an unlikely source in the Thunders 109-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs in a game which the Thunder tied the Western Conference series at two games apiece. The additional scoring help came from power forward Serge Ibaka who scored a playoff career-high 26 points and in the process had the best field goal shooting percentage in one playoff game since 1985.
That scoring was needed as Russell Westbrook was held to seven points and James Harden only managed 11 points. Even Kevin Durant Struggled in this game for the first half where he only put up eight points.
In the second half it was all Durant who who scored 13 straight at one point in the game and 18 in the fourth quarter en route to putting up 31 on the night. Center Kendrick Perkins also had a great night by scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka had the playoff game of his life, and helped the Thunder tie the Western Conference series at two games apiece against the San Antonio Spurs. Ibaka went a perfect 11-for-11 from the field, and he also was perfect from the free throw line by making all four of his attempts to give him a career playoff high of 26 points.
This performance by Ibaka be was an amazing performance for the best field goal shooting in the playoffs form a player who has at least 10 shot attempts in one game since 1985. The best shooting percentage since 1985 was currently held by Dikembe Mutombo and Yao Ming who both had identical playoff performances where they each went 13-for-14 with a .929 shooting percentage.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to even up the Western Conference Finals at two games apiece, and judging by the 55-43 halftime lead they have over the San Antonio Spurs they are on their way to tie the series.
The Thunder have this double-digit lead despite Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden scoring a combined 16 points. Durant has been held in check by shooting the ball only four times for eight points, but that is likely to change once he gets going in the second half.
The Thunder earned their lead by having a strong second quarter which started out by going on a 12-3 run and slowly extended their lead.
The Thunder are getting excellent performances from Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka who are leading the team in scoring with 13 and 14 points apiece With a 12 point lead and their leading scorers struggling is actually a good sign for the Thunder since the odds that Durant and Westbrook will be held the whole game is unlikely.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will enter Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a set of renewed confidence in themselves and chances of moving onto the NBA Finals Saturday. That's because the Thunder are coming off one of their most impressive performance of the season Thursday, a 102-82 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, who had a 20-game winning streak snapped.
One of the big keys in the win was center Kendrick Perkins and his ability to defend the Spurs' pick-and-roll offense.
"I was just disappointed in my Game 2 performance as far as pick-and-roll defense and just being the defensive anchor that I’ve been all season so I just wanted to go out there and do what I needed to do, just try to stop they pick-and-roll."
Perkins success stemmed from a new attitude from the big man and a tweak in the defensive game plan, says the Thunder blog DailyThunder.com:
The Thunder attacked the pick-and-roll vigorously and switched up frequently on defense. Some of it was by design and some of it was dictated by how far the shot clock had ticked down but the switching was almost always called as an audible by the big guys, Perkins, or Ibaka or Collison. .
However, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks wasn't going to take all the credit for the Game 3 victory.
"We just played well," he said, "I don’t know we played hard, we played defense. We switched some but we stuck with a lot of our coverages and we’ll see what it does tomorrow."
Can the Thunder ride its Game 3 momentum Saturday, when they take on the Spurs in Game 4 (8:30 p.m. ET on TNT)? I guess, Thunder fans will find out.
After falling 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder will have a chance to make its a brand new series Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET on TNT). The Thunder ended the Spurs 20-game winning streak on Thursday with a 102-82 blowout victory, and can tie the series at two games apiece with a victory in Game 4 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
To do so, the Thunder will need to continue their strong defensive play of Game 3, which held San Antonio to a season-low 82 points, and continue its hot scoring.
To catch the game, here's the game time and TV information:
Game Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK.
TV Coverage: TNT
The Oklahoma City Thunder finally made their Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs interesting last night in game three with a dominating 102-82 win. It was the first signs of life that the Spurs might not roll in a sweep and fans can now hope again in OKC that the Thunder will triumph in the end. Most of that credit falls on the shoulders of an unlikely hero for the Thunder.
Yes, Kevin Durant scored 22 points. Russell Westbrook also made some outstanding plays for the Thunder. James Harden has his moments in every game. But the player that everyone is talking about this morning is Thabo Sefolosha, the Thunder defensive ace who came up big in every aspect of the word.
"(Sefolosha) was phenomenal tonight," Durant said after the game. "He was so active on the defensive end. He got a lot of deflections and got us some easy points in transition. They've been leaving him open on the three ball. He took ten of them tonight. We believe in him, he's confident shooting that jumpshot."
He hit four of those three-point shots on his way to 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 steals to go with 0 turnovers. Zero. In short, he was effective and efficient all night on both sides of the court while hardly ever serving as a liability on any single play.
"We came to play, the whole team and it worked out for us," Sefolosha said. "But my teammates did a great job finding me and I was reading them. I think I played pretty well defensively and that got me going offensively as well."
Head coach Scott Brooks was also praising not only Sefolosha but the entire team's defensive effort on the night. Against a team with a 20-game winning streak through the NBA Playoffs, a 20-point victory is a decisive statement.
"I thought we played great defense from the start," Brooks said. "Everybody was engaged. Everybody was in the stands and our hands were active. We contested shots. We rebounded the basketball."
OKC is still down 2-1 in the series, so they have their work cut out for them. Kendrick Perkins knows this and was ready to focus on the reality of the bigger picture even minutes after the win.
"This win is over with," Perkins said. "You can tell guys were pretty locked in right after the win. There wasn't anything being said, no high-fiving because we still have a long way. We have a lot of work to do."
The San Antonio Spurs are typically called boring and seem to lack the celebrity flavor of a Jay-Z courtside for the Nets or the celebrities that are always on-hand at a Knicks or Lakers game. However, Gregg Popovich has somehow inspired Lil Wayne's allegiance -- so much so that he tried to follow the team to Oklahoma City to root the Spurs on for game three last night. Unfortunately, the overly-tattooed rapper couldn't get into the game.
Was going to go to the Thunder game tonight but was denied by the team to be in their arena. Wow. Smh. Go Spurs!— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) May 31, 2012
In a text message to ESPN, the rapper wrote, "They denied me the tix. Didnt want me in their arena. They also said if I do come, I can only sit behind the bench, not on the floor & that I wouldn't be able to get any special escort nor entrance. They said its the 'Oklahoma way'."
The team responded with a statement that Wayne only wanted a front row seat and that they were all taken. Nothing like a little rap drama in two states that celebrate Wynonna Judd more than any rap artist.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder want to point to one early play from last night's dominating win over the San Antonio Spurs, look no further than Kevin Durant's monster dunk over Tim Duncan which seemed to establish a tone that OKC was ready to come out with a new intensity against the incredibly steady play of the Spurs. The crowd went crazy and the Thunder never looked back in a win that was ultimately stretched to a 20-point victory.
Duncan finished with 11 points on 5 of 15 shooting and the Spurs suffered from poor shooting all night with a combined 39.5 percentage. Durant on the other hand had 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
Check out the video below to see the best play of the night for OKC:
All it took to end the Spurs' 20-game winning streak was a little bit of Loud City.
With a raucous crowd behind them, the Thunder won 102-82 and turned the Western Conference Finals into an interesting series again.
The Spurs led 24-22 after the first quarter, but the Thunder used a 24-8 run to take a commanding 54-41 lead at halftime, and the game was never that close again. OKC led 78-60 after three quarters.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting, along with six rebounds and five assists. Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, four steals and a game-best +29. Thabo Sefolosha added 19 points. The high-pressure defense of the Thunder forced the Spurs into 21 turnovers for the game. San Antonio shot just 39.5 percent from the floor, while the Thunder shot 45.5. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 16, but scored just five in the second half.
It looked like the Spurs would have little trouble on the way back to the NBA Finals, but Thursday's dominating win surely will change some predictions.
The second half has looked easy for the Thunder, who are a few minutes away from breaking San Antonio's winning streak and winning their first game of the Western Conference Finals. This alley-oop dunk by Russell Westbrook was the exclamation point.
Looking to avoid an 0-3 series hole, the Thunder put on a spectacular first half in Game 3 and lead the Spurs 54-41 at halftime.
The Thunder scored the first eight points of the game, but San Antonio answered with a 13-4 run and led 24-22 after the first quarter. OKC opened the second quarter on a 24-8 run to take a 46-32 lead with 4:15 to play in the half. The Thunder extended the lead as big as 15 points late in the half.
Kevin Durant leads all scorers with 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting, including 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. James Harden has 11 points in nine minutes on 3-for-4 shooting. Russell Westbrook has eight points. Tony Parker leads San Antonio with 11 points. With a block late in the second quarter, Tim Duncan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most in NBA Playoffs history at 477.
OKC shot 48.8 percent, while the Spurs shot 40 percent. It was the lowest first-half point total for the Spurs in these playoffs. The Thunder have a 23-19 rebounding edge and a high-energy defense forced the Spurs into 13 turnovers.
After a questionable offensive foul call against him, James Harden was, well, surprised.
Back at home, the Thunder got off to a quick start in Thursday's Game 3. OKC scored the first eight points of the game, but the Spurs answered with a 13-4 run. The rest of the quarter was played evenly, highlighted by this driving dunk by Kevin Durant over Tim Duncan
The Spurs lead 24-22 after the first quarter.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a tall task ahead of them as they're down 2-0 in their Western Conference Finals series with the San Antonio Spurs. It goes without saying that Thursday night's Game 3 is a "must win" as no team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in the NBA Playoffs.
The Spurs have been on a roll, winning 20 consecutive games and sweeping through the first two rounds of the playoffs thus far. The last time San Antonio lost a game was April 11th against the Los Angeles Lakers at home.
Working in Oklahoma City's favor is the fact that they play extremely well in Chesapeake Energy Arena which has a college like vibe to it and the young Thunder feeds off the energy of the crowd. Their biggest task in Game 3? Figuring out a way to stop Tony Parker who has carved them up in the first two games.
Parker has shot 22-36 so far in the series and has a decided edge in the matchup with his counterpart, Russell Westbrook. If the Thunder can find a way to slow down Parker, they may have a chance to win on Thursday. If not, Oklahoma City will find themselves in a hole they won't be able to dig themselves out of.
Twenty consecutive wins would be an incredible feat at any point in the NBA calendar. To do so in the playoffs is another level of domination entirely. Even the fresh legs and incredible athleticism of the Oklahoma City Thunder can do nothing but shake their heads at the end of the day. The San Antonio Spurs cannot be stopped.
Last night's 120-111 win in game two of the Western Conference Finals puts the Spurs in a strong position to win the seven-game series, even as the venue switches to Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC. The Spurs were in total control last night, going up by 11 at halftime and making no secret who the better team was thus far.
The Spurs had incredible ball movement and shot 55 percent from the floor, even with Tim Duncan shooting 2 of 11. Tony Parker had 34 points and Kawhi Leonard had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Manu Ginobili added 20.
For the Thunder, they were paced by Kevin Durant's 31 points. James Harden had 30 and Russell Westbrook had 27, but the team shot 42 percent overall. Derek Fisher went 2 for 11 on the night and Serge Ibaka was 3 for 11, so it's hard to keep pace with a team like the Spurs.
The Thunder have more questions than answers at this point heading back for game three.
Trailing by nearly 20 points for most of the third quarter, the Thunder decided to keep putting San Antonio center Tiago Splitter on the free-throw line with the Hack-A-Splitter. That, or Kevin Durant just really likes him.
Splitter is 6-for-12 from the free-throw line and the Spurs lead 92-76 after three quarters. As a result of the Spurs fans gave Splitter a standing ovation. Durant has 27 points to lead all scorers.
The Spurs have been putting on a clinic in the third quarter, breaking Tuesday's Game 2 wide open. At least one person/coyote thinks the game is over.
I fully expect the mascot to be elbowed by Dexter Pittman in the next game.
Looking to even things up in the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder have had trouble stopping the Spurs from scoring, and as a result, Oklahoma City trails 55-44 at halftime.
The Spurs got off to a hot start and took their first double-digit lead midway through the first quarter. Early in the second, the Thunder cut the deficit to six points, but the Spurs went on a quick 7-0 run to take a 42-29 lead — their largest of the half.
The Spurs have won 19 games in a row, and if the Thunder want to end that, it's going to have to start with defense. San Antonio shot 57.9 percent in the half. Tony Parker leads the Spurs with 17 points.
If the Thunder can't stop San Antonio on defense, it won't matter if OKC makes buckets.
The TNT announcers thought this was a good playoff foul, but was it even a foul? It doesn't look like it. Russell Westbrook's reaction was fair.
It was one of few good defensive plays the Thunder have made in the first half.
The San Antonio Spurs came out ready in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, taking a sizable early lead on the Thunder. At the end of the first quarter, the Spurs lead Oklahoma City 28-22.
The Thunder came out flat, and the Spurs took a 10-2 lead before Oklahoma City called timeout with 7:50 left in the first quarter. A jumper by Tony Parker gave San Antonio a 19-9 edge with 4:48 left in the period, its largest lead of the quarter. James Harden scored four points in the final 44 seconds of the quarter as the Thunder fought back a little bit.
After not many touches early, Kevin Durant leads the Thunder with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Russell Westbrook has two points on 1-for-4 shooting, with four assists. The Thunder made just nine of 23 shots, but five offensive rebounds have helped. Tony Parker leads the Spurs with 10 points.
The San Antonio Spurs host the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight for game two of the seven game affair known as the Western Conference Finals tonight, and it should be another close contest between the two teams most NBA analysts consider the best left standing. The Spurs took game one by a final of 101-98 after trailing late in the game. The Thunder now look to even the series before heading back to OKC.
Much of the talk after game one was about the adjustments that needed to be made by head coach Scott Brooks for the Thunder, so it will be interesting to see how the team performs down the stretch. Here's the info you need to catch tonight's game.
The most noticeable difference between the San Antonio Spurs that have steamrolled through teams to reach the 2012 NBA Western Conference Finals and the team that actually beat Oklahoma City on Sunday was the revival of Manu Ginobili, who finally found a hot hand in Game 1. Ginobili's 26 points and a 9-of-14 shooting from the field helped San Antonio pull away late, and added a new wrinkle for the Thunder to defend Tuesday night.
"He is a crafty lefthander," [James[ Harden said. "He gets to the rim. He made plays in the fourth quarter, and we have to do a better job of containing him and make him make passes. We have to control that and come back in Game 2 and be ready."
"That’s Manu’s game," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He’s a scorer. He’s somebody we depend on to create and make things happen. Whether it’s shooting, or driving, or assists somebody else with a pass. That’s what he has done for us his whole career, and it is very important to us. Without that, we have a tough time winning."
One man to watch on Tuesday? Harden, the Thunder's normally reliable sixth man, who lost the battle when matched up against Ginobili on Sunday and finished with four turnovers and only 17 points.
Scotty Brooks was even questioning his own decision making down the stretch of game one of the Western Conference Finals. He had just sat Serge Ibaka for much of the fourth quarter in the first game against the San Antonio Spurs and his OKC Thunder had the hosts on the ropes late. But the lack of interior defense allowed the Spurs to come back down the stretch. It’s a mistake he likely won’t make again.
Sam Smith said he should hope not, but that’s not the only rotational strategy he questions. He also wonders why Derek Fisher enjoyed so much time on the court as well in the fourth:
The Thunder blew it not playing Serge Ibaka the entire fourth quarter with Kevin Durant moving to power forward, which they do. Kendrick Perkins is a fraud, as we know, and had zero rebounds in almost nine fourth quarter minutes. Without any shot blocking, the Spurs won driving the ball to the basket. I know Derek Fisher was hitting shots. But nine fourth quarter minutes? No wonder the Spurs scored 39 points in the fourth.
The Thunder might believe that playing experienced veterans will help at this point, but it’s the fresh legs and incredible athleticism that got them here. Fisher and Perkins are liabilities at this stage and Brooks needs to admit as much. They must be used wisely and he can’t be afraid to go with youth even in the final minutes.
We’ll see what adjustments he makes heading into game two.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were grateful to be able to pick up a seasoned veteran in Derek Fisher in the middle of the season. The point guard has been hearing the jokes about his age and ability for years now and is glad to be on a playoff team, but he apparently has no intention of hanging them up any time soon.
Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman reports that Fisher, who is a few months away from turning 38, does not have any plans to retire and intends to continue playing after the 2012 season is in the books.
Fisher has been in the league since being selected as a first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996. He has averaged 4.9 points per game and 1.4 assists per game since coming to the Thunder.
Since the Oklahoma City Thunder dropped the first game of the Western Conference Finals to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, there has been some discussion about Thunder head coach Scott Brooks' decision to leave Serge Ibaka on the bench while the Spurs at its way with the OKC defense.
Well, Brooks copped to the mistake Monday and said he wished he would've put Ibaka back on the floor. Ibaka was the runner up to Tyson Chandler for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award this season.
In Sunday's loss, he played the fewest minutes of any Thunder starter, despite not having any fouls and the fact that Manu Ginobili was able to penetrate and maneuver through the paint at will.
"It’s tough," Durant said. "We had this game going into the fourth. It’s tough but we can’t hang our heads, man. It’s a long series. We have to keep playing, try to get Game 2."
The San Antonio Spurs outscored the Thunder 39-27 in the final quarter, and the Oklahoma City offense stalled in some of the game's biggest moments.
"We stopped moving the ball," said James Harden. "I think 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 we kind of slowed that down and they got a couple of easy transition buckets."
Game Two of the series will tip off on Tuesday.
Game one is officially in the books and it was every bit as close and exciting to watch as predicted. The results were also as predicted. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in game one with a 101-98 final, and for those who missed it, the game was everything that the Western Conference FInals should be. But since the majority of NBA analysts predicted the Spurs to win, the Thunder are also going to have to serve notice, likely in game two coming up on Tuesday night.
Kevin Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but the Thunder couldn't score down the stretch and after leading the game late, the Spurs eventually came back at home. Manu Ginobili looked brilliant off the Spurs bench, scoring 26 points on 9 of 14 shooting. Tony Parker added 18, while Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Spurs are now up 1-0 in the series. The second game comes Tuesday night in San Antonio once again.
The San Antonio Spurs have largely been overlooked all season. Either that, or they are referred to as "boring." A team that wins the Western Conference outright with the current Coach of the Year is typically a fan favorite and an exciting team to watch. Instead, the Spurs have an odd reputation for being consistently good with a shrug of the shoulders -- the "oh, yeah, I forgot about those guys" among teams with multiple championships.
With more media coverage than ever, however, some inside looks display a bit of attitude in San Antonio. Check out the video below of head coach Gregg Popovich asking for the Spurs to get nasty in their play in last night's game one against the Thunder.
Heading into the fourth quarte the Oklahoma City Thunder led by nine points and were like they were going to steal the first game of the Western Conference Finals from the San Antonio Spurs. Well, the fourth quarter did not go all that well for the Thunder as the Spurs were able to erase that deficit by beginning the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run.
The Spurs were able to use their traditional half-court offense in the fourth quarter and that was the difference in the game, plus the Spurs also cut down on their turnovers with only three in the second half compared to the 13 they had in the first half..
One key factor to why the Spurs came back was a coaching error by Scott Brooks who decided to play Kendrick Perkins over Serge Ibaka for most of the fourth quarter. Perkins is an offensive liability which allowed the Spurs defense to be more productive.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder by scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and had three blocked shots. While Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, five rebounds and three assists.
A surprise player to step up for the Thunder has been Derek Fisher who has came off the bench and is a perfect 4-for-4 and has scored nine points, including hitting a three-pointer with 11 seconds left in the half to put them up by three. Kevin Durant is leading all scorers with 13 points while Russell Westboork has nine points at the half. James Harden has struggled so far and is 1-for-9 with only three points.
For the Spurs Manu Ginobili has given them a boost off the bench and leads the team with 10 points of 4-of-7 shooting, and he is the only Spurs player to be in double figures.
Neither team has played particularly well in the first half and one of the reasons that the Thunder are leading is that the Spurs have turned the ball over 13 turnovers that have led to 15 Thunder points.
It's only a matter of a few minutes before the Western Conference Finals finally get underway, after several days of rest for both the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Many are referring to the upcoming series as the real NBA Finals, considering just how dominant both of these teams have been compared to really anyone else still alive in the NBA playoffs. Given the state of the Eastern Conference at this point, the description is not that far off.
The Spurs are widely considered to be the favorites, but don't tell that to Tim Duncan and company. Despite the ease with which they are defeating their opponents, no one is foolish enough to look past a team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka no matter how good they are.
Here's the info you need to catch tonight's game.
Judging by expert opinions and predictions, the San Antonio Spurs are the definite favorites to move on from the Western Conference to the NBA FInals. They're predicted to win by nearly every NBA analyst over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the series that begins tonight and they won the regular season series against the Thunder two out of three games.
But it would also be wise for both teams to realize that the versions of the other that they played throughout the regular season will not be the same teams they are facing now. Both teams easily dispersed of their opponents in both the first and second rounds of the regular season.
For the Spurs, they are clicking on all cylinders and the Thunder didn't have to play some key personnel last time(s) around. For the Thunder, they are growing in front of the eyes of basketball fans worldwide and becoming the title threat everyone knew they would eventually become. Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus writes that both teams should be wary of expectations based on previous contests:
San Antonio won two of those, but Ginobili missed all three of the contests. Neither of San Antonio's key in-season acquisitions, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw, played against Oklahoma City. Derek Fisher wasn't around for the Thunder. The teams played just once after the All-Star break, a 114-105 San Antonio win at Oklahoma City on March 16 that came in the second game of a back-to-back for the Thunder. The Spurs lost their next game and have gone 29-3 since then. These are different teams playing at different levels than at any time when they met in the regular season.
Game one is tonight at San Antonio.
The Oklahoma City Thunder open play in the 2012 Western Conference Finals on Sunday night in San Antonio against the Spurs.
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