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Tue, Mar 31, 2009 - 8:30 PM ET
Game Recap
 

Spurs tied for Southwest lead after loss to Thunder

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SAN ANTONIO (AP)

The Oklahoma City Thunder are tied for the fifth-fewest wins in the NBA, and two have come in the past month against the former No. 2 team in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant scored 31 points and the Thunder beat San Antonio 96-95 on Tuesday night, their second nail-biting win over the Spurs in two weeks. The Spurs still clinched a playoff berth later Tuesday due to tiebreakers. Like the one in Oklahoma City on March 16, this one also came down to a Spurs miss as time expired. This time it was Michael Finley's jumper clanking off the rim after the Spurs — who didn't call timeout after a Thunder miss on the other end — struggled to find an open shooter with the clock winding down. It was Oklahoma City's first road victory over a likely playoff-bound team all season. "I can't put a finger on it," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. With eight games left, the Spurs lost their slim lead in the Southwest Division and fell into a first-place tie with Houston. Denver took a half-game lead as the new No. 2 in the West with a win Tuesday over New York. San Antonio has lost two straight and will play five of its final eight games on the road, including another one at Oklahoma City next week. "We're really struggling right now," said Tim Duncan, who led the Spurs with 21 points. "We're going through a really bad time, and not the right time of year to do that. We have to take personal responsibility and step up and change what's happening out here." Duncan said he should have called timeout after blocking Jeff Green's layup attempt with 13 seconds left, calling it a "mental lapse." Coach Gregg Popovich said there should have "absolutely" been a timeout on the last play. "We have a couple of people that need to play better," said Popovich, who didn't name the players. "Knocking down shots is really important in the NBA, and we haven't been able to do it." Russell Westbrook had 16 points and 10 assists for the Thunder, who fought off a furious rally from the Spurs to break a three-game losing streak and win in San Antonio for the first time since 2004. "I don't know why we play so hard" against San Antonio, Durant said. "I think we cause some matchup problems because we have Jeff Green at the 4 and he's very versatile at that position. But it's always fun playing the Spurs." Oklahoma City, which had won just once in the six games since beating the Spurs on March 16, built a 74-57 lead in the third before the Spurs came storming back. The Thunder's lead shrunk to 94-93 with 1:11 left on a 3-pointer by Finley, but Nenad Krstic hit a jumper to push the lead back to three. Manu Ginobili scored 17 points in his first start since December. Finley had 14 and Tony Parker had 11 for the Spurs. Krstic and Green each had 16 for the Thunder. San Antonio led by as much as eight in the first quarter before the more youthful Thunder - whose starting lineup has fewer years of NBA experience combined (8) than Duncan (11) - began exhausting the Spurs. Kyle Weaver's 3-pointer with 7:12 left in the second gave the Thunder their first lead since the opening minutes. From there, Oklahoma City went on a 10-3 run and held the Spurs without a field goal for more than five minutes to take a 51-40 lead. Oklahoma City's lead ballooned to 17 in the third on Durant's jumper, but the Spurs rallied. Duncan answered with a layup on the other end to start a 9-2 run to end the quarter. "The last couple of weeks have not been very good for us," Ginobili said. "We consider ourselves an experienced and tough team, so we've got to stay together and step up now." Joining the Thunder on the bench in street clothes was new addition Shaun Livingston, who signed a multiyear contract Tuesday after spending three weeks with their NBA Development team. The No. 4 pick out of high school in the 2004 draft, Livingston is trying to comeback from a gruesome knee injury with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007. Livingston will practice with the team for the first time Thursday but may not make his debut until next week. Oklahoma City has just eight games remaining.

Notes

The Spurs are two victories away from their 10th consecutive 50-win season, a feat accomplished only by Boston (1958-1969) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1991). ... Spurs F Fabricio Oberto, who sat out the previous two games because of an irregular heartbeat, was cleared to play but remained inactive. The team said Oberto will have daily heart tests for the rest of the season. ... Along with Livingston, the Thunder also recalled rookie D.J. White from the D-League for the second time in eight days. White has been working his way back from two jaw surgeries.
Tagged: Spurs, Thunder

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