Once so dominant at home, the Oklahoma City Thunder are giving the teams behind them in the Western Conference a reason for hope.
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Tony Parker scored 25 points, Tim Duncan added 16 points and a season-high 19 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat Oklahoma City 114-105 on Friday night to inch closer to the first-place Thunder in the West standings.
The Spurs are now three games behind Oklahoma City, which has now lost three of four at home after winning 14 in a row at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
”We can’t be relaxed because we’re at home. Just because we’re at home, we’re not going to win games,” said Kevin Durant, who scored 25 points for the Thunder.
”We’ve just got to come out with a sense of urgency, play harder and we’ll be all right.”
San Antonio rolled to a 27-point lead in the first half and was up by 20 late in the third quarter before Oklahoma City rallied within two down the stretch.
Duncan muscled past Serge Ibaka at the left block to answer Durant’s 3-pointer that pulled the Thunder to 107-105, and Danny Green stole a careless inbound pass by James Harden for a dunk that put the game away.
The second-place Spurs now trail Oklahoma City by three games but hold the tiebreaker by winning the season series 2-1.
”In the second half they made their run. We didn’t put our heads down. We just kept going and we got the win,” said DeJuan Blair, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio.
”It’s a wonderful win. It’s always great to win in here.”
The Thunder had been 17-1 at home this season before losing three out of four, with the only win coming against NBA-worst Charlotte.
Oklahoma City had made a habit of letting opponents build leads early and then rallying back for the win, overcoming a 14-point deficit to beat Denver and a 16-point hole to top Phoenix.
But now the comebacks are falling short.
”We dug ourselves a hole. It’s encouraging that we fought back. There’s no moral victories for us, but it’s good to see us keep fighting,” Durant said.
Durant suggested fans in the team’s 36th straight sellout crowd ”should have booed us in the first half but they didn’t.”
”We didn’t play as hard as we wanted to,” he said.
Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma City with 36 points, matching his season-high by taking 29 shots. James Harden added 19 points and Ibaka had 12 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Thunder.
Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich downplayed the importance of battling for the top seed in the conference. San Antonio rested Manu Ginobili, who has struggled with a left oblique injury in recent weeks, and played without Stephen Jackson, who has yet to join the team after being acquired in a deal for Richard Jefferson at the trade deadline.
”I think I’ve learned over the years it’s more about what kind of a rhythm you have going into playoffs, how much the team trusts and believes in itself and health,” said Popovich, whose team lost in the first round last year with the No. 1 seed. ”Those things have a lot more to do with it than where you’re seeded.”
The Thunder went all in for the victory, bypassing the usual rest periods for Durant and Westbrook bridging the break between the third and fourth quarters — and it nearly paid off.
Westbrook scored 10 points during Oklahoma City’s 18-2 comeback, and the All-Stars took turns setting up 3-pointers from Harden and Royal Ivey during the run. Durant’s jumper from the left elbow with 9:36 remaining pulled the Thunder to 92-90.
Green hit a jumper and a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions to give San Antonio a little bit of its cushion back, and the Spurs were able to hold on from there.
Ivey and Durant each missed 3-point attempts that would have tied it at 101 with a little under 5 minutes left, and the Thunder never again had the ball with the chance to tie or go ahead.
Green sealed it when Harden tried to bounce the ball to Westbrook near midcourt on an attempted sideline inbound play with 59.9 seconds left, running out for a right-handed dunk that made it 111-105.
Green finished with 21 points for San Antonio, which held a 49-37 edge on the boards and outscored Oklahoma City 24-9 on second-chance opportunities and 54-36 in the paint.
”You have to assume that they’re going to make a run,” said Duncan, who moved past Paul Silas and Dikembe Mutombo into 18th place on the NBA’s career rebounding list.
”We were a little tired and they got it closer than we may have wanted it to get, but great composure by our squad not to lose it and we kept coming back and running our plays, running our offense.”
San Antonio committed five early turnovers, including two shot clock violations in its first four possessions, but shook out of it to go on a 12-2 run and build a 30-16 lead before Harden’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first quarter.
Parker hit a jumper from the left wing and drove for a three-point play during a 12-0 run that doubled San Antonio’s lead midway through the second quarter, and the advantage hit its largest point at 63-36 after Blair’s bucket in the lane with 3:36 left before halftime.
Previously, no opponent had led by more than 16 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena this season.
”This is not a season-ending loss or nothing like that,” said Westbrook. ”Just a tough loss but it’s to a great team and we definitely can look at this game and see that we accomplished something and we had some fight in us.”
Notes: Popovich was asked before the game how the newly acquired Jackson, who has had a few notable scrapes with the law and went into the crowd during the Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004, would fit in with team. ”Jack’s pretty much been a Boy Scout most of his career and I look forward to fun conversations and humor and many good times with young Stephen,” Popovich responded. Jackson previously played for San Antonio for two seasons, winning the championship in 2003. … Durant’s new charity will hold a fundraising gala March 31 in Oklahoma City. … The Thunder sent rookie forward Ryan Reid back to their NBA Development League affiliate in Tulsa. He played a total of 17 minutes in five games since being recalled five weeks ago, averaging 1.6 points.