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Fran Blinebury

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Stephen Jackson provided a little bit of the nastiness Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was looking for in Game 1.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Spurs get nasty in Game 1 win over Thunder


Posted May 28 2012 2:31AM

SAN ANTONIO -- In addition to the nice little career he's got going out on the basketball court, Stephen Jackson is a rapper with his own label.

Maybe it's time he signed a certain 63-year-old up-and-comer to a big contract.

After watching his team get outrun, outhustled and outclassed for much of the night, Gregg.i.am Popovich shuffled into the huddle before the start of the fourth quarter with a song in his heart.

"I want some nasty," he growled.

Jay-Z, Kanye West and Rihanna never got so many to get up and follow a beat so fast.

In the blink of an eye, the Spurs went from a waltz to a wallop, from slow dancing to slam dancing.

Tony Parker slashed into the lane, Tiago Splitter rolled like a bowling ball under the basket, Tim Duncan stormed, Manu Ginobili was Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson was, well, let him tell it.

"I love nasty, especially on the court. Nasty is my name. Stephen Nasty Jackson, I like that. It feels good."

It felt like a baseball bat to the shins of the young, graceful and athletic Thunder, a 101-98 loss.

Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Spurs had been compared to artists putting down masterpieces on canvas with their gorgeous offense and precise ball movement. This was finger-painting and getting dirty.

Over a perfect 8-0 playoff record against the Jazz and the Clippers, a 19-game winning streak overall and 30 wins in the last 32 games, the Spurs had been like a surgeon's scalpel removing organs and hardly drawing blood. This was working with a chain saw.

Popovich wanted some nasty.

What he wanted wore No. 3 on his jersey, a gleam in his eye and was the reason that the Spurs brought Jackson back to San Antonio in that trade deadline deal three months ago.

"Oh yeah, it makes me smile, it gets me going when he talks like that," Jackson said. "When he says that he wants to go out and be physical, go out and leave it all on the court. Play hard for your teammates, back your teammates up. That's all he meant. He didn't mean go out there and be dirty. He didn't mean to disrespect the team. He just meant go out there and play hard and give it your all."

What Popovich wanted was somebody that could cling and itch and irritate Kevin Durant like a hair shirt, taking the league's leading scorer out of his rhythm and essentially out of the game, leading Oklahoma City to rely far too much in the fourth quarter on the wayward jump shot of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. What he wanted was sharp teeth, hungry appetites and an attitude.

"I thought that we were playing for most of the first half, and even at the beginning of the third quarter, a bit unconfidently, kind of on our heels a little bit, unsure of ourselves, on the dribble too much, ball movement was the same as usual," Popovich said.

"So I talked to them about they've got to get a little bit uglier, get a little more nasty, play with more fiber and take it to these guys. Meaning you have to drive it, you have to shoot it. You can't hold it. We caught the ball, we just held it. They're long, they're athletic, they're really something else. We need to be active and aggressive. We got that way in the fourth quarter."

Trailing by nine going into the final period, the Spurs had the OKC lead wiped out in barely four minutes. There was Ginobili coming up strong with the ball while trying to get off a jumper and smacking Harden in the chops. Nasty.

After scoring 34 points in the paint through the first three quarters, the Spurs rumbled to 16 in the fourth. After OKC blocked nine shots in the first three quarters, the Thunder blocked none in the fourth. After scoring 62 points through three quarters, the Spurs steamrolled to 39 in the fourth.

There was Jackson standing in Durant's path to take an offensive foul and getting an elbow to the nose for his trouble. Durant claimed it was nothing he hasn't seen and dealt with before. But he shot just 0-for-2 in the fourth quarter, barely touched the ball in the first five minutes of the period and ran basic isolation plays as his team withered. During one possession, the Thunder wasted 13 seconds of the shot clock trying unsuccessfully just to get the ball to Durant who was wrapped up by Jackson.

It was the renewal of a friendship that had been forged last summer, when Durant, Harden and several other members of the Thunder attended teammate Kendrick Perkins' basketball camp in Beaumont, Tx., which is also Jackson's home town.

"I got a chance to work with (Durant)," Jackson said. "They came and we had a barbecue at my house. We played cards. My mom cooked barbecue, crawfish, a little bit of everything. We had a good time."

Jackson and Durant have even collaborated on a rap song that they plan to release after the playoffs. It's called "Lonely At the Top" and Durant probably never felt lonelier than when he was left out on that fourth quarter island to deal with Jackson.

These were the Spurs that nobody had seen in more than a month while they were rolling over opponents by more than a dozen points a game. These were Spurs not cutting diamonds, but using jackhammers. These were the Spurs that Gregg.i.am demanded to see and that No. 3 coaxed and cajoled and inspired through the fourth quarter, some of the attitude that is unmatched anywhere. Well, almost.

"You wanna see nasty?" asked a grinning Jackson. "Go interview my wife. That's nasty."

Note to Durant: Run if you see Mrs. Jackson loosening up.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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