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Ginobili's big block on Durant keys Spurs' win over Thunder

By Tim Price, for
Posted Thursday February 25, 2010 12:35AM

SAN ANTONIO ( exclusive) -- When Kevin Durant led a fastbreak that would give Oklahoma City a lead with less than three minutes to go against the Spurs on Wednesday, the night's "Plays of the Game" reel was ready to roll.

"I thought it was going to be in the highlights," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "But I thought it was going to be him making the good one."

It is in the highlight reel. But Ginobili gets the call.

Ginobili's emphatic block not only helped break Durant's streak of 29 straight games with 25 points or more, it was the decisive defensive play that lifted San Antonio to a 95-87 victory over the Thunder at AT&T Center.

Durant scored 11 points in the first quarter, but he went 3-for-12 the rest of the night and finished with 21 points.

Ginobili's block was part of a stretch that saw the Thunder miss their final eights shots during the game's last four minutes.

It was hauntingly eerie of the Thunder's thud to finish the game just a night earlier at home against Phoenix. Then, Oklahoma City led by 10 points with five minutes to play, but the Thunder missed their final 10 shots and suffered a loss that ended a nine-game winning streak.

The Thunder (33-23) clung to a two-point lead with 4 minutes to go against the Spurs (32-23). When Ginobili hustled back on defense and somehow made it around Durant when he decided not to pass to Russell Westbrook filling a lane on the break, the blocked shot obviously flattened Oklahoma City's tire.

"It comes down to making shots, and we missed some," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

Not Ginobili, or at least not many and certainly most when they loomed large down the stretch.

After blocking Durant, Ginobili drove the lane and was blocked by Nenad Krstic. But he quickly gathered up the ball and shot it out to George Hill in the corner for a 3-pointer.

Following two free throws by Westbrook to make it a two-point game, Ginobili hit his own three for a 92-87 lead with tw minutes left. He scored the game's final three points on free throws.

"He makes the big play with the block (of Durant) in transition -- that's superhero," Brooks said. "It's amazing that he constantly makes winning plays. That isn't normal."

Ginobili went 9-for-18, 7-for-8 from the free-throw line, and scored 26 points.

He scored 10 in the fourth quarter. Durant went 0-for-4 and did not score in the final 12 minutes.

"When Manu got that block of me I didn't even know he was around," Durant said. "It was a big-time play."

Durant missed out on getting his streak of consecutive games of scoring at least 25 points to 30, but it's still the longest such streak in the league since Michael Jordan did it in 40-straight games in 1986-87.

He likely was pulled out of his rhythm when Westbrook tried to kick in his game after a slow start. Westbrook missed his first seven shots of the night and may have pressed to get things going. In the fourth quarter Westbrook took 12 of the Thunder's 22 shots as the team struggled to shoot better than 30 percent in the final 12 minutes.

"I just know as a group we reacted well defensively," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It was real satisfying to beat a team that has played as well as they have."

Just two nights ago the Thunder were the hottest team in the league with nine-straight victories.

But the Spurs, who looked like an old team by losing three of the five previous meetings with the youthful Oklahoma City, finally showed a veteran touch that emphasizes defense. Combined, Durant and Westbrook were 13-for-40 from the floor. Westbrook scored 17 points, but his seven assists were tempered by four turnovers and decisions to shoot quickly in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs stayed a half game ahead of Portland for the seventh spot in the West, but they have plenty of work remaining. San Antonio has to finish 18-9 or else miss the 50-win mark for the first time since the '96-97 season (not including the work-stoppage season of '98-99).

They played with Tony Parker in the starting lineup after Parker missed Sunday's loss in Detroit with a strained left hip flexor muscle. Parker finished 2-for-6 for 4 points while being called for five fouls.

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