Spurs win showdown with Thunder
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs rebounded from their worst loss of the season with a balanced performance against one of the NBA’s best teams.
This was one satisfying victory.
Tiago Splitter had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and San Antonio snapped Oklahoma City’s five-game winning streak with a 105-93 victory on Monday night.
“I think everybody played well,” Splitter said. “I was one of them. You play well and you feel better. You want to play well against these kinds of teams, these playoff teams. Of course, we’ve got to stay humble. It’s one more game.”
Kawhi Leonard scored 17 points, Danny Green had 16 and Tim Duncan finished with 13 as San Antonio (49-15) maintained the Western Conference’s top record. Manu Ginobili had 12 points and Boris Diaw added 11 as the Spurs’ reserves outscored their counterparts 34-16.
“We had a lot of great play from the bench,” Duncan said. “That second squad came in there and kind of changed the tempo and took control of the game.”
Kevin Durant had 26 points and Russell Westbrook added 25 for the Thunder (47-17), who have lost six straight in San Antonio. Serge Ibaka was the only other player in double figures, adding 13 points and 16 rebounds.
San Antonio’s defense was the difference, turning an evenly matched battle into its third victory in four games without Tony Parker. The All-Star point guard is going to miss another three weeks with a sprained left ankle.
“Normally teams don’t push us out so we can’t run our offense,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “They did a good job of being physical with us. We’re usually in attack mode and we’re able to get better catches and better execution. That’s something we can get better from. We’ve always done a great job of watching film and throwing it on the practice floor to improve on.”
The Spurs lost 136-106 to Portland on Friday night, with the Trail Blazers setting a record for most points by an opponent at the AT&T Center and handing the Spurs their second-worst home loss ever.
A couple days later, it was a much different story for San Antonio.
Oklahoma City had only two baskets in the opening 10 minutes of the fourth, but was 11 for 12 on free throws. The Thunder went 4 for 20 from the field in the final period.
“We just stuck with it,” Duncan said. “It was great to see the tide turn and us turn up our aggressiveness on defense.”
Durant was 7 for 13 from the field, compared to 11 for 27 by Westbrook. Durant said the shot differential was a product of the flow of the game.
“I can do whatever I want on offense,” he said. “I can come down and take 30 shots, but that is not the right brand of basketball for me. I was trying to make the right basketball play. The Spurs do such a great job of making me pass the ball. I was picking and choosing my shots. I trust my teammates.”
Asked about San Antonio’s defense and the Spurs’ run in the second half, Westbrook offered the same terse reply.
“They made some shots,” he said.
San Antonio scored the first nine points of the fourth to take a 92-74 lead with 9 minutes left.
Oklahoma City played Sunday afternoon in a 91-79 home victory over the Boston Celtics, but still managed to outrebound the Spurs 15-4 in the opening quarter, including a 5-0 advantage on offensive rebounds.
“No team ends up being a really good team without playing good `D,’ ” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We played very poor defense in the first quarter. It looked like a continuation of the Portland game. But in the second quarter, we held them to 18 and we played a little more individual `D,’ took a look more pride in it. And the team `D’ was better. It’s always about defense. If you don’t play good defense, you’re nothing in this league.”
San Antonio made its first five shots, with Duncan hitting a pair of jumpers over Kendrick Perkins to help the Spurs to a 10-4 lead with 9 minutes left in the first. The Spurs then proceeded to go 2 for 10, enabling the Thunder to rally.
Ibaka drove to the hole and threw in a floater off Oklahoma City’s fifth offensive rebound for a 24-14 lead.
After missing their first four 3 pointers, Green hit back-to-back attempts and Leonard hit another to pull San Antonio to 42-40 and force an Oklahoma City timeout. The 3s were part of a 23-4 run that gave San Antonio a 57-46 lead with 41.4 seconds left in the first half.
The run included Leonard stripping Westbrook at the basket, driving the length of the court and throwing down a left-handed dunk as Ibaka began to close in on the right. The basket made it 53-46.
Leonard guarded Durant primarily, and the All-Star attempted only one 3-pointer.
“Just coming out, having confidence in myself to guard him,” Leonard said. “You know he’s going to score points, but just trying to contest him. Not make it easy for him out there; he knocked down a couple of tough shots in the first quarter, so I just kept trying to move on from there.”
NOTES: Splitter has eight double-doubles this season after collecting only three in his first two seasons. . Over the past four seasons, only the Spurs (210) have more victories than the Thunder (199). … The Thunder, Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers are the only Western Conference teams with a winning road record.