Durant gives Thunder another win over Spurs
OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant continues making a case that he is the NBA’s best closer.
With his team needing a late jolt to stave off the San Antonio Spurs, Durant scored 18 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 109-103 win in Game 4 of the Western Conference final Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I was there. I saw it,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “He was great. We tried to do a couple of different things, but his play was better than anything we did defensively, that’s for sure. He finished it off in fine fashion.”
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka added a playoff career-high 26 points on 11-for-11 shooting to help Oklahoma City even the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Monday night in San Antonio.
The Thunder was fueled by its second consecutive offensive outburst, courtesy of 56.4 percent shooting and 27 assists, which tied a season high.
Durant dished out a game-high eight assists, and Thunder guard James Harden added seven assists to go with 10 points.
But Durant simply took over and delivered this victory for the Thunder.
The reigning three-time scoring champion scored 16 straight in the fourth quarter, using an array of jumpers and drives to almost single-handedly slay the Spurs.
“He had a remarkable fourth quarter,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
It was just another day at the office for Durant, who already owns three game-winners this postseason — one in the opening round and two in the semifinals.
After his latest clutch performance, Durant admitted the king closer label would suit him just fine.
“Yeah, I would like that,” Durant said. “I just want to be calm and composed and poised in those situations and make the right basketball play. There are times when I need to pass to my teammates and times when I need to score. I just try to take it on, try not to be nervous. Sometimes, it’s nerve-racking playing those games like that. But I just try to calm down and go with my instincts.”
Durant got rolling after Spurs forward Tim Duncan made a running hook with 6:54 left to play to pull San Antonio within 86-82.
By the end of Durant’s eruption, the Thunder led 102-93 with 1:32 remaining.
“He wasn’t second in MVP votes for nothing,” said Spurs guard Gary Neal. “I mean, he is a great scorer. He is a great talent, and tonight, in the fourth quarter, he was making shots and he was hot. You know that is going to happen in the fourth quarter, and we have to figure out how to maintain our level of intensity for 48 minutes. When you get down in the hole and try so hard to get back, you know sometimes guys making shots can kind of take the energy out of you.”
Duncan scored a team-high 21 points with eight rebounds to lead six Spurs in double digits. Rookie Kawhi Leonard had 17 points with eight rebounds, Manu Ginobili scored 13 points, Boris Diaw and Tony Parker had 12 points each and Stephen Jackson scored 11 off the bench.
The Thunder also got 15 points and nine rebounds from center Kendrick Perkins. With Thunder forward Nick Collison scoring eight points on 4-for-5 shooting, the Thunder’s big man trio of Ibaka, Perkins and Collison combined to score 49 points on 22-for-25 shooting.
“The bigs came through tonight and were outstanding,” Popovich said of the Thunder’s trio. “If you did a shooting drill with nobody guarding you, I don’t think you could do that.”
The Thunder led 55-43 at halftime behind an inspired effort by its big men. Perkins, Ibaka and Nick Collison combined to score 33 points on 15-for-17 shooting to pace OKC. They made up for slow starts by Russell Westbrook, Harden and Durant, who had combined to score just 16 points on 5-for-17 shooting.
But it was the passing by the Thunder’s big three that allowed their big men to be effective. Durant had four of his assists in the first half, while Harden tallied three and Westbrook dished out two. As a team, the Thunder registered 14 assists in the first half. The unselfishness led to wide-open looks and high-percentage shots. The Thunder shot 57.5 percent in the first half and used their defense to lead to offensive transition — Oklahoma City outscored San Antonio 9-0 in fast-break points in the first 24 minutes.
“We made a good effort to play together,” Durant said. “We had 27 assists. That comes from moving the ball and making the right plays. I think doing that in the first three quarters kind of opened it up for me in the fourth, and I was able to make some shots.”
The Spurs shot just 41.9 percent in the first half, largely because Parker was held in check for the second straight game. Parker scored just six points on 3-for-8 shooting and was unable to get his teammates involved, unlike in previous games. He had just two assists in the first half, which went a long way in limiting San Antonio to just seven assists over that same span.
With neither team having lost on its home court this postseason, the Spurs, with home-court advantage, are hoping that trend holds.
“It’s of course a great challenge,” said Ginobili. “We are playing against a really talented team. We earned ourselves the possibility of having home-court advantage, and hopefully we’ll use it.”
NOTES: Rapper Lil Wayne, who made headlines after Game 3 for claiming the Thunder denied him entry into the game, did not attend Game 4 despite Thunder players Kevin Durant and James Harden offering to host him. The team said the Grammy-winning musician was not denied access but that there were no floor seats left. Lil Wayne on Saturday said the decision was racial. … Radio personality and producer Ryan Seacrest sat courtside for Game 4. Seacrest was a guest of Jeffrey Records, a part owner of the Thunder who is a friend of Seacrest.