Thunder Resiliency on Display in Game 2 Rally
SAN ANTONIO – The “hole” just kept getting deeper.
Down six to the San Antonio Spurs after the first quarter and 11 at the half, the Thunder suddenly was staring at a 22-point deficit with less than 17 minutes remaining in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
An 8-0 run in 1 minute, 29 seconds pulled the Thunder within 80-66. Shots were starting to fall, the Spurs were starting to miss and, most important, the Thunder was getting to the free-throw line.
With 5:40 remaining in the game, the Thunder was within six points.
“OKC is a very, very good team,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said, adding: “We knew they were going to make a run. We just tried to hold on.”
The Thunder would get no closer, eventually falling, 120-111, in a game it never led.
Afterwards, while TV analysts and media members wanted to talk about the resiliency of the Thunder, forward Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook did not.
“We lost. There are no moral victories for us,” Durant said. “We were down. We dug ourselves a hole. We did what we normally do, which is fight all game, and we lost. We’re upset.”
Added Westbrook: “We’re not here to try to make it a close game or try to make it a good fight. We’re trying to win. We lost tonight. They did their job of taking care of home court, and now we get a chance to go back home.”
The best-of-seven series shifts to Oklahoma City and Chesapeake Energy Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday. But the Thunder’s entire focus is on Game 3; it will review game film and hit the practice court Wednesday with one goal in mind: “Taking care of Game 3,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said.
“I like the way our guys fought,” he said, later adding: “Our guys played hard. Unfortunately we came away with nothing the last few days. But they (the Spurs) did a good job holding serve. That’s our job to go home and worry about Game 3. That’s all we’re focused on is one game.”
The comeback Tuesday featured Thunder Basketball at its best: starting with defensive stops, getting out in transition, sharing the basketball and getting to the line.
The Thunder forced the Spurs to miss three consecutive shots in the fourth quarter. A 10-2 run in the first 2:23 of the period featured seven points from James Harden; the 17-7 run that made it 99-93 with 5:40 remaining included 11 points from the foul line.
“That’s one of the things we’re good at. We have to get to the free-throw line,” Brooks said. “We attack and get to the line. … We led the league in free-throw attempts for a reason. We spread the floor and attack the basket.”
The Thunder also attacks on defense. Two plays figured prominently in the comeback, too, and neither went the Thunder’s way.
Guard Derek Fisher was called for blocking on drives by the Spurs’ Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili during a stretch of 1:26. If either play is ruled as a charge, the Thunder would have had a chance to make it a one-possession game (the Duncan block) or a two (the Ginobili). Both players made both of their free throws, putting the Spurs up 101-93 and later, 105-96.
“He was there a little late,” Brooks said of Fisher, “but those are the plays that we need to make. … When you’re down by that many points against a good team, you need some good fortune. “
Asked if viewers are going to learn a lot about the Thunder in the next game in terms of how the team will respond, Durant answered:
“Yeah, if you don’t know us by now. We’ve been a resilient group that bounces back. It’s tough to go down 0-2. We didn’t come in here thinking that, OK, they’re supposed to get these two at home. We wanted to come in here and win. We didn’t do that.
“We get an opportunity to go home and play in front of our home crowd and try to get Game 2. We’ve got to take it a game at a time, a possession at a time. We’ll be all right.”