Thunder snap Spurs’ winning streak at 20
OKLAHOMA CITY — The San Antonio Spurs’ winning streak came to a screeching halt Thursday.
The question now is whether the Oklahoma City Thunder can actually turn the Western Conference finals into a series instead of serving as a mere road block in the Spurs’ march to the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant and the Thunder smacked the Spurs 102-82 in Game 3 on Thursday night.
The loss was the Spurs’ first since April 11, snapping a 20-game winning streak. San Antonio won 10 consecutive games to start the playoffs, one shy of the all-time record set by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001.
The Spurs still hold a 2-1 series lead over the Thunder. Game 4 is Saturday night.
“They played really well,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the Thunder. “They played like it was a closeout game, both offensively and defensively. They were very active, physical. They moved the ball well on offense, and they did all those things better than we did. They beat us good.”
Durant led all scorers with 22 points, but Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha was the player of the game for his defensive effort in addition to his 19 points. James Harden added 15 points off the bench for Oklahoma City, Serge Ibaka chipped in 14 points, and Russell Westbrook contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points apiece. Parker made six of 12 shots. Jackson made six of seven shots, going 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
Only one other Spurs player scored in double digits, Tim Duncan, who struggled mightily the whole night before finishing with 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Some solid defense by Thunder center Kendrick Perkins proved to be Duncan’s problem, as Perkins used his strength and shot-blocking skills to thwart several post-ups by the future Hall of Famer.
“Perk did not play well last game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “The decision was never to not play him. The guy has won so many games for us. I just needed him to play better. He stepped up and played better tonight. I’m proud of him and all of our guys. That’s what we do, and that’s what we have to continue to do.”
The Thunder’s defensive effort forced the Spurs into just 39.5 percent shooting, a series low for them. San Antonio also turned the ball over a series-high 21 times, leading to 20 points for the Thunder. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, had just eight turnovers, which helped the Thunder outscore the Spurs 18-7 in fast-break points.
“I forget about the turnovers,” Popovich said, interrupting a question after the game to include one of the biggest Spurs blunders of the night. “That doesn’t help. That sort of characterized the beginning of the game and gave them a really good head start in that sense as far as the way they were playing. I think we recovered pretty poorly from that.”
The Thunder led by as many as 27 points and never trailed in the second half.
The Thunder took a 22-point lead when Derek Fisher drained a corner 3-pointer off a pass from Harden. It was a basket that put Oklahoma City ahead 73-51 with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter and ended any remaining doubt about the outcome.
The Spurs led 24-22 at the end of the first period, the third straight time in this series that San Antonio has held a lead going into the second quarter. But, unlike Games 3 and 4, a fast start kept Oklahoma City close. The Thunder raced to an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes, benefiting from swarming defense and smart decisions on offense.
The Thunder’s length and quickness hounded the Spurs into four turnovers in the first three minutes and seven turnovers in the first quarter. Sefolosha, who got the start defensively against Parker, caused all four of those turnovers by being a pest in the passing lanes and coming up with steals.
San Antonio stormed back with a 13-4 run to go up 13-12, one of six leads the Spurs held in the first quarter.
But the Thunder outscored the Spurs 32-17 in the second quarter and threatened to run away with the game, taking a 54-41 lead at halftime.
“I thought we played great defense from the start,” Brooks said. “Everybody was engaged. Everybody was in their stance, and our hands were active. We contested shots. We rebounded the ball. Defensively, that was as well as you can play against the best team in basketball. Everybody did it throughout every possession.”
How will the Spurs respond?
“We’re going to see. We’re going to see how we react,” Duncan said. “Obviously, we haven’t lost in a while. … We’re in the Western Conference finals. We don’t really need motivation. We are here, and we are trying to get to four games. We hoped to win every game in a row in the playoffs, but we didn’t. So here we go. Game 4, we’re going to be ready, and we’re going to bring it.”
NOTES: Fisher passed former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant to move into sole possession of third place on the all-time list of career playoff games. Fisher has now appeared in 221 postseason games. … With 7.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Sefolosha was called for a flagrant foul for raking Manu Ginobili across the face with his forearm. … Durant was slapped with a technical foul with 9:22 remaining in the second quarter for protesting a non-call. … A combined 21 fouls were called in the first half. … NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver attended Thursday’s game.