The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs for the third straight time to move within one win of reaching the National Basketball Association Finals.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points and Russell Westbrook added 23 for the Thunder, who opened a 13-point fourth-quarter lead before pulling out the 108-103 win last night at San Antonio’s AT&T Center. Oklahoma City became the first team to win a road game in the NBA’s conference finals and sent the Spurs to their only three-game losing streak of the season.
“After Game 2, we just told each other to play hard every single possession,” Durant said in a televised interview. “We had to play better and guys are stepping up.”
The Thunder now hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals and can advance to the NBA’s championship series with a Game 6 victory tomorrow in Oklahoma City, where they have a 7-0 record this postseason.
The Spurs’ losing streak comes after they had won a franchise-record 20 straight games, including 10 in a row to start the postseason.
“It’s not like we’re playing the Sisters of the Poor,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said at a news conference. “These guys are hard to guard, talented, hungry, athletic. The bottom line is you can’t turn it over 21 times for 28 points against a team like that. They’re too good.”
The West champion will face the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Eastern Conference finals is tied at two games each, with the Heat hosting Game 5 today after the home team won the first four matchups.
Heat All-Star forward Chris Bosh may return today from an abdominal strain that has sidelined him since May 13. After three weeks of being listed as out indefinitely, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said yesterday that Bosh has made considerable progress in his rehabilitation.
Oklahoma City last night ended the third quarter with a 20-5 scoring run to erase a six-point deficit and take an 81-72 lead. The Thunder pushed its advantage to 13 points in the fourth quarter, leading 101-88 with 5:16 left.
The Spurs rallied with 11 straight points -- including six from Tim Duncan -- to get within 101-99 with 1:54 remaining.
The home team still trailed by two points when James Harden nailed a contested 24-foot 3-pointer for Oklahoma City with 28 seconds on the clock.
“The ball was supposed to go to Kevin, but the shot clock was winding down and I had to make a play,” said Harden, who added that it was the biggest shot of his career. “I just tried to shoot it with confidence.”
A turnover by Durant with 15 seconds remaining gave the Spurs a final chance to tie, trailing 106-103, and Manu Ginobili was long on a 3-point attempt. Ginobili led the Spurs with 34 points, while Tony Parker had 20 and Duncan added 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“We did a great job of weathering the storm,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said at a news conference. “We knew they were going to make a run and we hit some big shots down the stretch. Everybody did their job and we got the win.”