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article imageNBA: Spurs top OKC Thunder in wild finish

By Lynn Herrmann     Feb 24, 2011 in Sports
San Antonio - With the 8,900 mile, 17-day road trip finally at an end, the San Antonio Spurs hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night at the AT&T Center, hanging on for their 19th straight home win, a 109-105 nail-biter in front of a loud home crowd.
With 26 games left in the regular season, the Spurs put their league-best 46-10 record on the line against the high-flying Thunder and by game’s end had improved their home record to 26-2.
Of those 26 games, 17 are against teams with winning records, including six against the league’s top six teams. For playoff contenders, wins and losses coming down the stretch begin playing a critical role in final seedings for the playoffs.
Unlike last season, which saw them struggling to even make the playoffs, this year’s Spurs team currently enjoys a six-game cushion over second-place Dallas in the Western Conference.
For the Thunder - bringing with them a 36-19 record and the current four-seed in the West - Kevin Durant came in averaging 29 points per game, tops in the NBA. Their guard, Russell Westbrook was averaging 22 points and 8.5 assists per game.
Westbrook started the game strong, giving the Spurs fits by hitting 6-of-7 field goal attempts in the first quarter and scoring 13 points.
After Richard Jefferson’s three 3-pointers helped get the Spurs offense rolling in the first quarter, the Spurs cooled off, closing out the quarter hitting 1-of-7 field goal attempts during the last two-and-a-half minutes.
At the end of one, the Thunder were up 37-31, and the Spurs defense apparently was still enjoying the long All-Star break.
The Spurs cold hand continued as they started the second quarter missing their first five shots on the offensive end and unable to grab rebounds on the defensive end. As a result, the Thunder went up 39-31 and forced Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to use a timeout.
After that, the Spurs clawed back into it and when a Tony Parker layup closed the gap to 45-43, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks needed a timeout with just under six minutes before the half.
The two teams battled briefly until Jefferson hit his fourth trey, pulling the Spurs within one, 51-50, causing the home crowd to explode. That home crowd, happy to have their Spurs back at home after a grueling Rodeo Road Trip, would continue playing a huge role for the remainder of the game. A critical play in the game followed on the Spurs next possession.
Nick Collison delivered a hard foul on Parker, then threw his arm around Parker’s neck, knocking Parker to the ground. For his effort, Collison was given a flagrant 1 foul. Parker hit his two free throws and the Spurs had their first lead of the game since early in the first quarter, 52-51.
The Spurs’ Gary Neal hit a basket, was fouled, and nailed the free throw to put San Antonio up 55-51, giving them an 8-0 run. Then a goal-tending call on Serge Ibaka gave Duncan a basket and the Spurs had a 10-0 run. A pair of Manu Ginobili free throws stretched that lead to 59-52. George Hill hit a three after a Durant free throw to give the Spurs their largest lead of the game at 62-53.
The Thunder went the last 5:09 of the quarter without a field goal, allowing the Spurs to go on a 17-2 run and take that 64-53 lead into the locker room. Helping cushion that lead was hot 3-point shooting for the Spurs, hitting 8-of-11 in the first half.
The second quarter was OKC’s achilles heel, as they connected on only 6-of-24 field goals, were outscored 33-16, and had Collison’s mental lapse sandwiched in the middle. Westbrook led Oklahoma City in the first half with 18 points.
Parker led the Spurs in the first half with 14 points while Jefferson added 12 on four 3-pointers. Neal, coming off the bench, had 10.
The Thunder opened the third quarter on a 10-4 run and at 7:55 in the third, were within five, 68-63, forcing the Spurs to use a timeout.
The third quarter saw the Spurs again displaying their cold shooting as they missed 9 of their first 10 shots in the third quarter.
Westbrook converted a three-point play and the Thunder had erased their halftime deficit, closing to 70-68.
Finally the Spurs heated up, with Duncan scoring the Spurs first eight points in the quarter before Neal nailed a big three, putting them up 75-68, and the Thunder took a timeout.
Another Neal three closed out third quarter scoring for the Spurs and they took an 88-80 lead into the final frame.
Daequan Cook hit two straight threes for the Thunder to open the fourth quarter and James Harden hit back-to-back threes to tie the game at 94. From there on out, the game was a see-saw, with both teams making all the right plays and the crowd getting their money’s worth.
Hardin dropped in a pair of free throw to give the Thunder their first lead since the second quarter, 96-94, with just over seven minutes to play.
Bonner tied the game at 98 with 4:00 left to play and on the Spurs next possession he buried a big three from the wing, making it 101-98 with 3:41 to go in the game.
Ginobili, having hit 1-of-11 all night, made a big basket to put the Spurs up 103-100 with under three minutes to go.
Durant then split a pair of free throws after a Duncan foul to tie the game at 103 with 1:55 to play.
With 44.2 seconds to play and the Spurs up by one, 104-103, Popovich called a 20-second timeout to draw up a play. Parker then delivered a 17-footer to make it 106-103 with 26 seconds to play.
Ibaka powered through a two-handed slam, bringing OKC within one, 106-105.
Ginobili was fouled and went to the line for two free throws, hitting both to make it 108-105 with 13 seconds to play. The Thunder then used their last timeout.
Ginobili’s defense smothered Green as he forced a 3-point attempt, resulting in an air ball, causing immediate speculation on whether the shot was ill-advised. Parker was then fouled, closing out the scoring by splitting a pair of free throws and the Spurs hung on for a hard-fought 109-105 win that should have most of the rust removed for a Friday night match-up with New Jersey.
For the game, the Thunder shot 41 percent from the field. Durant led all scorers with 30 points, hitting 11 of 13, with numerous Spurs defenders taking their turn at guarding him. He was followed by Westbrook’s 25 points, but they came on 24 shot attempts. Hardin scored16 points and Green added 14. The promising Ibaka had a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The Spurs lost the battle of the boards in a big way, 54-37, but offset that with only eight turnovers in the game.
For San Antonio, Neal’s off-the-bench performance was superb, scoring 19 points. In post-game comments, in typical team fashion, he told Spurs Radio: “We didn’t do everything right on the defensive end, but, if you compete on the offensive end, you give yourself a chance to win.”
Parker led a balanced Spurs attack with 20 points. Duncan notched another double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Bonner added12 points. Jefferson scored 12 points, all coming in the first half. Ginobili added 11 points with 9 assists and zero turnovers.
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