Thunder 108, Spurs 103
SAN ANTONIO – The Oklahoma City Thunder climbed within one victory of the NBA Finals, holding off a furious comeback by the San Antonio Spurs to win 108-103 Monday at the AT&T Center in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder had led by 13 with five minutes left, and by five with 28.8 seconds remaining. But Manu Ginobili could not hit a rushed 3-pointer in the final seconds after an Oklahoma City turnover gave the Spurs a shot at the tying basket.
Game 6 is Wednesday in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder has yet to lose in the playoffs. Kevin Durant scored 25 points, Russell Westbrook added 23 and James Harden finished with 20, including a step-back 3 that gave the Thunder a 106-101 lead in the final minute.
The Thunder survived despite a season-high 34 from Spurs guard Manu Ginobili.
The first quarter resembled a lunchtime pickup game with both teams committing sloppy turnovers and missing wide-open shots.
The Thunder got off to a horrendous start, missing its first seven shots with two turnovers. Compounding matters was the foul trouble of power forward Serge Ibaka, who was saddled with two before the game was a minute old.
San Antonio was unable to take advantage, however, leading just 8-2 even though Oklahoma City scored on just one of its first 11 possessions.
The Spurs would lament that missed opportunity as Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan were eventually forced to sit with a pair of fouls. The absence of San Antonio’s starting bigs paved the way for the Thunder to finish the period on an 18-6 run.
Oklahoma City’s 26-21 advantage was its first of the series after one quarter. Backup big Nick Collison played a key role, stepping in for Ibaka to score six points and take a charge on Duncan.
The action picked up considerably in the second quarter, with both teams finally generating some offensive flow.
The Thunder got an unlikely lift from little-used reserve Daequan Cook. Averaging 2.2 points per game in the playoffs, he scored eight straight points to give Oklahoma City its largest lead, 40-33.
Ginobili answered with a 3, but the Thunder responded with a 10-0 run to move ahead by 14. The Spurs helped fuel the stretch with 10 straight misses and three turnovers.
San Antonio reserve Stephen Jackson drilled a 3-pointer to snap a scoreless drought of nearly seven minutes. The basket triggered an 8-2 spurt that brought the Spurs to within eight, 52-44.
Oklahoma City led at the break despite a quiet performance from Durant (five points, 1-for-6 shooting).
The Spurs picked up where they left off in the third quarter, outscoring Oklahoma City 18-4 to retake the lead, 60-56. Ginobili sank consecutive 3s during the run en route to 13 points in the quarter.
The Thunder not only withstood the barrage but responded in kind. Westbrook scored 11 in the period and Durant had 13, including a long-range jump shot at the buzzer that gave Oklahoma City an 81-72 advantage.
Unlike Game 1, in which the Thunder blew a nine-point lead entering the final quarter, the Thunder held firm even as San Antonio sliced what had been a 13-point deficit down to two in the final minute.
That’s when Harden, with the shot clock winding down, stepped back for a 3-pointer over Kawhi Leonard that put Oklahoma City up 106-101 with 28.8 seconds remaining.
The Thunder turned the ball over after a Giniboli layup, giving San Antonio a shot at the tying basket. But Ginobili missed a rushed 3 with three seconds left, dooming the Spurs to their first three-game losing streak of the season.
NOTES: Spurs point guard Tony Parker passed Charles Barkley for 24th on the career postseason scoring list with a pair of third-quarter free throws…Coming off an 11-for-11 night in Game 4, Ibaka made his first two field goals on Monday before missing a contested tip midway through the second quarter… Ginobili started for only the eighth time this year and the 48th in his playoff career.