Duncan, Parker return, but Spurs fall to Thunder
By the time the Oklahoma City Thunder finally reached five wins last season, New Year’s Day had come and gone.
The Thunder has five wins again, and it’s not even Thanksgiving.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points and Oklahoma City held off San Antonio for a 101-98 win on Saturday night, hitting another small milestone for the vastly improved Thunder and handing their Spurs their first home loss in five games this season.
“We were just talking about that,” Durant said about Oklahoma City’s fifth win, which last season came Jan. 6. “It feels really good. …If we continue to work like this, you never know what’ll happen.”
Jeff Green added 21 points for the Thunder, who spoiled the return of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker back in the lineup after missing two games with ankle injuries. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, and his one-handed runner with 45.9 seconds left that gave Oklahoma City a crucial two-possession lead down the stretch.
Duncan had 22 points and 10 rebounds but attempted just one shot in the fourth.
Parker scored 17 and missed a 3-point heave at the buzzer, just past midcourt, that would have forced overtime.
Oklahoma City shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half after shooing 39 percent before halftime.
“We controlled the first half defensively and in the second half they just shot the ball well,” Duncan said.
Manu Ginobili scored seven points for the Spurs but sat out the fourth quarter because of a tightened hamstring.
Trailing 97-94 with 26.9 seconds left, the Spurs recovered a botched inbound pass by Thabo Sefolosha and Richard Jefferson went full steam the other way. But Jefferson lost control of the ball and turned it over in the end of a low-key night for the San Antonio newcomer.
Jefferson finished with four points and took just four shots in 35 minutes. With Duncan and Parker out earlier this week, Jefferson averaged 26.5 points in victories over Toronto and Dallas.
Durant was just 6-for-18 from the field but made 13 of 15 free throws.
“I’m just being aggressive,” Durant said. “My shot wasn’t falling the way I wanted to, so I got to the line and helped us out there. Like I said, this is a big win for us.”
Westbrook, who also had 11 assists, scored 14 of his points in the second half, including nine in the third quarter when the Thunder came back from a seven-point halftime deficit. Nenad Krstic added 11 points from the Thunder, who played the first of four games in five days.
The Thunder will go home Sunday to play the Los Angeles Clippers, then head east to play at Miami on Tuesday and at Orlando on Wednesday.
Parker and Duncan had not played since losing at Portland on Nov. 6, when both suffered injuries to their left ankles.
Duncan answered any doubts about his health with three dunks – usually a few game’s worth for the reserved future Hall of Famer. Duncan shot 9 of 14 from the field in 37 minutes, while Parker shot 7 of 18 and had five assists.
George Hill scored 18 off the bench for the Spurs.
Fortunately for the Spurs, they won’t be packing their bags much over the next three weeks. The Spurs play seven of their next nine at home, with their only road games during that stretch at Dallas and Houston.
In other words, the Spurs won’t be leaving the Lone Star State again until Dec. 7.
NOTES: Ginobili announced earlier this week that wife Many is expecting twins. Considering what Ginobili has given the Spurs over the years, might Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stick around to coach his kids? “I think they might play for Jerry Sloan,” Popovich quipped. … Westbrook had his fourth game with 10 or more assists this season.