The Oklahoma City Thunder continued their momentum as they notched their third win in their series against the San Antonio Spurs and one away from the NBA Finals. In a perhaps unforeseen turnaround, the Thunder have won three in a row and suddenly people are saying that the Spurs look to old. With the loss today, the Spurs lost three in a row for the first time this season. Kevin Durant led the way for the Thunder with 27 points on 10-19 shooting while James Harden had 20 points of the bench.
“Bottom line is you can’t turn it over 21 times for 28 points. That’s what we did again. Turnovers have been theme during the entire deal.”
— Spurs coach Greg Popovich
Manu Ginobli was huge for the Spurs, scoring 34 points, including 2 big threes to bring the game close. However, it was not enough as the Spurs now face elimination from the playoffs.
The San Antonio Spurs fought back late to take a Game One victory at home over the dangerous Oklahoma City Thunder. On the verge of giving up home court advantage and losing their first game of the playoffs, the Spurs rode a tremendous Manu Ginobli to victory. Ginobli had 26 points off the bench in a encouraging return to form for the Spurs.
“(Ginobili) is just left-handed and crafty. He can get to the rim. He made plays in the fourth quarter, and we stopped moving the ball.”
— Oklahoma City’s James Harden
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points and 10 rebounds, but for one of the few times in his career, fell over in the 4th. After veteran Stephen Jackson was moved on to Durant, the long armed terror only managed to get up two shots in the final period. A poor return from a usually reliable performer. James Harden had 19 while playoff warrior Derek Fisher added 13 points
Despite a desperate rally from the Utah Jazz, the San Antonio secured themselves a much wanted rest when the finished their sweep with a 87-81 victory. The Jazz were down 21 late, but fought hard to bring it back to a close margin. Al Jefferson led all scorers with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Paul Millsap dominated the boards as he tore down a total 19 rebounds while also putting in 10 points. Gordon Hayward’s poor series continued as he he didn’t make the scoreboard, missing all seven of his shots.
The bench was the driving force behind the Spurs win, with Manu Ginobli scoring 17 points off the bench. Tiago Splitter also had 10 points in a good showing for the Brazilian. The Spurs are certainly looking dangerous heading further into the playoffs, especially with Ginobli beginning to find his feet.
“We ignore that. We’ve been hearing that for 10 years.”
— Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on how his team responds to other people saying San Antonio is too old to compete for another NBA championship.
How do the Spurs always manage to fly under the radar? Every year, Pop figures a way out to get his team to win, and yet nobody really pays much attention to them. Tony Parker is playing nigh on MVP basketball, yet few would put him in the top ten of candidates. Tim Duncan is still doing his thing, and unlike many aging superstars, is willing to take a back seat, is actually able to acknowledge that his powers are in decline. Few players ever of his calibre have been able to do that. The one thing that has been holding them back is their health, but they appear to have gotten over that hump. They were active at the deadline, yet like usual they were largely ignored. Boris Diaw is no poor pickup and if anyone can get Stephen Jackson but to work Popovich can. Then they went ahead and signed promising young guard Patty Mills. Still they attracted little attention, with many preferring the young guns in Oklahoma over the veterans in San Antonio.
Now with Manu Ginobli back in the line-up, the Spurs are healthy. If they were able to win without their All-Star guard, one struggles to imagine that his return will be anything other than positive. And they run deep, once again something that is often ignored. People talk about the likes of Chicago and Philadelphia when they are talking about teams that run deep down the bench, yet rarely are the Spurs mentioned. With Bonner, Diaw, Mills, Jackson, Neal and Splitter are all quality players, all able to step up on a given night.
Also, somehow, despite remaining at the top of the standings for many years, they have managed to acquire some great youth. Tiago Splitter will be a great player one day, and Kawhi Leonard is starting in his rookie season. Patty Mills can also play and is a great backup off the bench. DeJuan Blair is starting at the center. Their stocks of young players are stronger than many teams who have had multiple high lottery picks. The Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since Tim Duncan’s drafting 14 years ago and have won 3 championships with essentially this core. Don’t be surprised if they go deep into the playoffs this year and are right in the mix to win it all.