Offensive Explosion Fuels Spurs in Oklahoma City

Spurs @ Thunder
March 16, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena// Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City Thunder (33-11)
San Antonio Spurs (29-13)

D. Blair
Points: 22
Reb: 11
FG: 11-15
T. Duncan
Points: 16
Reb: 19
Blk: 5

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) 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 Western Conference standings.

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 Kevin 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.

Russell Westbrook finished with 36 points and Durant scored 25 for Oklahoma City.

DeJuan Blair chipped in 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who are three games back in the West.

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," Popovich said. "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 20-2 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.

Duncan's rebound total pushed him past Paul Silas and Dikembe Mutombo into 18th place on the NBA's all-time list.

The Spurs won the season series 2-1 and would have a tiebreaker if they were able to catch Oklahoma City at the end of the season.

Harden added 19 points and Ibaka had 12 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Thunder. Oklahoma City has lost three of four at home - with the only win coming against NBA-worst Charlotte - after winning 14 in a row at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Each team had its own offensive struggles at the start, and it was the Spurs who shook out of it first.

San Antonio committed five early turnovers, including two shot clock violations in its first four possessions, but at least could get shots to go down. Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal had bookend 3-pointers on a 12-2 run that provided the Spurs a 30-16 lead before Harden's buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first quarter.

Even that couldn't shake the Thunder out of a poor shooting night that started with nine misses in their first 10 shots.

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.

The Thunder rallied back, scoring 12 of the final 14 points of the first half to pull to 65-48, and they wiggled back to within 13 early in the second half before San Antonio pushed its lead back to 86-66.

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.

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