OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma, June 1 – Kevin Durant scored 22 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped San Antonio’s 20-game win streak with a 102-82 triumph on Thursday to trim the Spurs’ lead in their NBA playoff series.
The Spurs still lead 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference final with game four at Oklahoma City on Saturday. The winner will face the Eastern Conference winner, either the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics, in the NBA Finals.
“It was good for us to get a win in front of the home crowd,” said Thunder standout Thabo Sefolosha. “We knew coming back home it would be a different ball game. It’s going to be a long series. This is only one game.”
San Antonio ended the regular season with 10 victories in a row and began the playoffs with 10 consecutive triumphs to match the third-longest total win streak in NBA history.
But the streak was snapped by the most lopsided playoff loss in Spurs’ history.
“They just flat out beat us,” San Antonio’s Stephen Jackson said. “They played with more energy. They gave us a good old fashioned butt-whipping.”
The Spurs had not lost in 50 days since falling April 11 at home to the Los Angeles Lakers, who set the NBA record with a 33-game win streak in 1971-72. Houston won 22 in a row in 2008 and Milwaukee also won 20 in a row in 1971.
“We haven’t lost in a while. We’ll see how we react to it,” Spurs veteran big man Tim Duncan said. “Hopefully the guys will come back jacked up.”
The Thunder, losers in 10 of their prior 11 games against the Spurs, outscored San Antonio 32-17 in the second quarter to claim a 54-41 half-time advantage and never let the visitors back into the game in the second half.
“They played very well. They played like it was a close-out game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They played better than we did. We played much more poorly than we have and they played fantastic basketball in every way.”
The Spurs, seeking a fifth NBA crown in 14 seasons, produced their fewest first-half points in this year’s playoffs.
“We played defensive-minded basketball. That’s how we win,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Swiss playmaker Sefolosha scored 19 points and, in a defensive change for the Thunder, was able to contain Spurs’ guard Tony Parker, keeping the Frenchman to 16 points.
“It worked out for us,” Sefolosha said. “I was able to bother him a little bit. Everybody was locked in as a team. That’s what we needed to do. My teammates did a great job finding me and the ball went in for me.”
Jackson added 16 points for the Spurs while Duncan contributed 11 points and five blocked shots, becoming the NBA career playoff blocks leader in the process with 478, two more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“We had hoped to win every game, but we didn’t,” Duncan said. “Game four, we are going to be ready and we’re going to bring it. The series is about adjustments. They made some and now we have to make some.”
After two home triumphs had put San Antonio halfway to the NBA Finals, the Spurs now find themselves looking for answers against a younger, faster lineup.
“We will be more aggressive next game,” Parker promised. “They played with a lot of energy. They played harder than us. We have to play a lot better if we want to win.”