Spurs 95, Thunder 87
SAN ANTONIO (AP)
Manu Ginobili didn't believe he would actually stuff Kevin Durant when the NBA's leading scorer elevated for a runaway dunk on a crucial fast break in the final minutes.
``I was more expecting to be dunked on, to tell you the truth,'' Ginobili said.
Coming almost out of nowhere to block Durant and deny Oklahoma City from retaking the lead, Ginobili made what Thunder coach Scott Brooks called a ``superhero'' play that propelled the San Antonio Spurs to a 95-87 victory on Wednesday night.
That bat Ginobili knocked down on Halloween? That swat can take a back seat.
With the Thunder trailing by one with just under 3 minutes left, Durant corralled the ball after a Spurs miss and raced down the court for what the entire arena likely expected would be an easy fast-break dunk for the All-Star.
Ginobili knew he had to try something. He expected a more embarrassing outcome when he went up to challenge the lengthy 6-foot-9 forward, but instead wound up getting a clean palm on the ball and sent Durant crashing down on the baseline.
Even Durant gave Ginobili his due.
``All clean, I can't take credit away from him,'' Durant said. ``He made a great block. When I was at the rim, he just met me there, his hand was inside the rim and he got it.''
The block had other repercussions: It helped finally end Durant's streak of scoring 25 points or more at 29 games. He finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, marking the first time Durant has scored fewer than 25 points since Dec. 19.
As if the block wasn't enough, Ginobili led the Spurs with 26 points. His last field goal was a big 3-pointer a minute after he made the defensive play of the game - and maybe the season - for the Spurs.
``He's really long, very athletic,'' Ginobili said. ``So I went up to see what would happen. Of course I wasn't going to let him score an easy two.''
From the other end of the floor, Brooks was impressed.
``That's superhero,'' Brooks said. ``It's amazing.''
Tim Duncan had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Spurs, who finished on a 10-2 run after it was tied at 85 with under four minutes left.
Durant missed all four shots he took in the fourth, including a 3-pointer in the final minute that ended any hope of a comeback. Durant's streak of 25-plus point games is a franchise record and was the longest since Michael Jordan's 40 in a row in 1986-87.
``It was good while it lasted. Teams are too tough in this league for it to go on like that,'' Durant said. ``It was cool while it lasted. Very fortunate, privileged to do something like that.''
Jeff Green had 19 points for the Thunder, and Thabo Sefolosha had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Durant shot 7 of 19 from the field. Russell Westbrook had 17.
Oklahoma City lost for the second time in two nights after Phoenix snapped its nine-game winning streak Tuesday.
Tony Parker returned to the starting lineup but had another rough game, scoring four points in 26 minutes. The injury-plagued guard had missed two of the previous five games and was diagnosed this week with a mild strain of his left hip flexor.
With Parker back, the Spurs unveiled their 19th different starting lineup this season while searching for a rotation that works. Absent from the lineup was Richard Jefferson, the disappointing offseason pickup who came off the bench for the third time in four games.
Jefferson, whose 12-point scoring average entering Wednesday marked the lowest since his rookie year, scored nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.
The Spurs have just 11 remaining home games, and can't afford to squander many. What San Antonio expected would be a championship-contending season has instead become a fight just to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996-97, the season before Duncan was drafted.
San Antonio entered Wednesday with the seventh-best record in the West. After ending their rodeo road trip with losses at Philadelphia and Detroit, the Spurs needed this one.
``We've had some (wins) like this before where it looked like we were going to start being who we're supposed to be, and then it didn't happen,'' Ginobili said. ``We got to stay humble and keep working hard.''
Notes: Despite playing the previous eight games on the road, the Spurs head right back out there Friday to face Houston. ... Spurs C Ian Mahinmi has played in just seven games this season, and coach Gregg Popovich doesn't see many chances for the 2005 first-round pick and long-term Spurs project to get on the floor. Between Duncan and the rest of the frontcourt, Popovich said Mahinmi simply can't work his way up from the end of the bench.