San Antonio wins series 4-2 (Game 5 of 6)

San Antonio wins series 4-2

Game 1: Monday, May 19th
Game 2: Wednesday, May 21st
Game 3: Sunday, May 25th
Game 4: Tuesday, May 27th
Game 5: Thursday, May 29th
Game 6: Saturday, May 31st

Thunder 89

(59-23, 25-16 away)

Spurs 117

(62-20, 32-9 home)

    Coverage: TNT

    9:00 PM ET, May 29, 2014

    AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

    1 2 3 4 T
    OKC 32 23 19 1589
    SA 32 33 29 23117

    Top Performers

    Okc: R. Westbrook 21 Pts, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Stl

    SA: T. Duncan 22 Pts, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk

    Thunder-Spurs Preview

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs have seen this nightmare before.

    In 2012, the Spurs won the first two games of the Western Conference finals against the Thunder, then lost four straight and were bounced out of the playoffs. This season, the Spurs were cruising in the West finals, winning two blowouts against Oklahoma City before Thunder defensive wiz Serge Ibaka unexpectedly came back from a left calf strain. With renewed confidence and energy, Oklahoma City's youngsters rolled past their veteran counterparts in Game 3, and the reminders started coming.

    The Thunder dominated Game 4 to tie the series, and now, the Spurs again face a most uncomfortable scenario. They host Game 5 on Thursday in danger of falling behind 3-2. If they lose, they'll travel to Oklahoma City on Saturday facing elimination.

    Just like in 2012.

    "Reminding people about what happened in the past helps in some way, but we have to go out there and execute and do things," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said.

    The Thunder also have tried to distance themselves from their rare comeback, though they said it helped them remain hopeful when they were down 0-2.

    "We can't think about the past," forward Kevin Durant said. "We have to focus on right now. This team (San Antonio) is well-coached and has a great group of guys. They'll make it tough. We have to worry about getting better and having our focus and energy on every single play."

    Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the rest of the Spurs must match the intensity of their youthful opponents. Russell Westbrook, just 25, was all over the place in his 40-point, 10-assist, five-steal effort in Game 4.

    "It doesn't matter what we do tactically if we don't up that determination, that attitude, that persistent, aggressive, ugly, hard-nosed attitude and I think that was embodied in them in Russell Westbrook," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "He played like it was his last game, and that's the way it's got to be."

    Oklahoma City looks like a new team. The Thunder lost the first two games of this year's series by a combined 52 points, and a 112-77 loss in Game 2 left them embarrassed. Now, the Thunder appear to have things figured out. The Thunder played a more physical defensive style in Games 3 and 4 and used their length and athletic ability to disrupt the Spurs' normally precise offense.

    "I don't think there's no way we can match their athleticism, so we've got to play smart and take advantage of a few situations, because that athletic part is not going to be matched." Popovich said.

    Ibaka has provided a morale boost with his play. In the two games since his return, the 6-foot-10 power forward has averaged 12 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. San Antonio shot at least 50 percent in the first two games, but with Ibaka back in the lineup, the Spurs have shot just below 40 percent the past two games.

    "They're up in the passing lanes, they have starters and they have Serge (Ibaka) in there and their big guys back there who are protecting the rim, so they're gambling a little more," Duncan said. "They've turned that gambling into turnovers and took some fast-break points and gave them a big boost in that area."

    On offense, Ibaka has created spacing with his shooting range while giving Westbrook and Durant a trusted third option. He also gives Brooks options.

    "We can use a lot of lineups with Serge out there and play different ways," Durant said. "I'm glad he's healthy, he's back, and we're going to need him to continue to bring that energy and effort every time down the court."

    The Spurs had the best record in the NBA this regular season and are tough at home.

    "We have to make it happen," Duncan said. "We've played all year to have this home-court advantage. It's a three-game series now, and we get to play two of them at home at least. So we're going to go in there and try to right the ship a little bit."

    Game notes
    Thunder guard Reggie Jackson sprained his right ankle Tuesday night after seven points, three rebounds and three steals in 19 minutes. Coach Scott Brooks said Jackson felt good during practice on Wednesday. He also said Ibaka is holding up well after playing 30 minutes on Sunday and 35 on Tuesday.


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    Research Notes

    The Thunder have won all 4 series in which they were tied 2-2 dating back to the 2011 postseason (OKC was tied 2-2 in both of their previous series this postseason - vs Grizzlies in the 1st Round and vs Clippers in Conference Semifinals)
    From Elias: Kevin Durant is averaging 29.8 points this postseason while Russell Westbrook is putting up 26.6 per game. Since 1970-71 (Conference Era), the only pair of teammates to average 25+ points per game in the postseason while making it to at least the Conference Finals were Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. That duo did so on two different occasions with the Lakers, winning the title both times (2001 and 2002).
    The Thunder are 6-0 with Serge Ibaka in the lineup against the Spurs this season, with 4 of those wins coming back in the regular season. OKC is limiting San Antonio to 21.0 fewer points per game with Ibaka, in large part due to controlling the painted area. San Antonio averaged 60.0 paint points per game on 66.7 percent shooting in the 2 games Ibaka sat out, but has put up just 40.3 paint points on 48.2 percent from the field in the 6 games he's played.
    From Elias: The Thunder still have work to do if they want to match the feat they accomplished in 2012. NBA teams erasing a 2-0 best-of-seven series deficit and tying the series 2-2 have gone on to win just 21.4% of the time (15 of 70 series). But since 2012, such teams are 2-2 (OKC d. SA in 2012, MEM d. LAC in 2013; BOS lost to MIA in 2012, ATL lost to IND in 2013).
    Serge Ibaka went 1-of-6 in the paint in Game 5 after going 7-of-8 in Games 3 and 4. He was 0-of-3 with no points overall against Matt Bonner and 1-of-3 with 2 points against Boris Diaw. He faced those two on only four plays in Games 3 and 4. Kevin Durant finished 3-of-8 with 7 points against Danny Green, whom he started the game against. Russell Westbrook finished 5-of-11 with an average field goal distance of 18.7 feet against Kawhi Leonard Thursday. Westbrook had an average shot distance of 12.0 feet the first four games of the series, facing Leonard on only 1 field goal attempt.
    Spurs drivers scored 29 points Thursday, their most in a game this series. Their drivers shot 9-of-14 and attempted a series-high 11 free throws on those plays. The Spurs' drivers were 6-of-9 with 19 points (7-7 FT) on drives with Serge Ibaka on court Thursday. In Games 3 and 4, Spurs drivers shot 39.1 percent and averaged 13.0 points per game with Ibaka on court.
    Although Russell Westbrook was efficient on his drives in Game 5, he drove to the basket only four times in the game, his fewest since Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. - In addition to driving less frequently, Westbrook was also less active looking for his shot. Westbrook didn't pass (only player to touch the ball) on five plays in Game 5, which led to 6 points. Westbrook didn't pass 19 times in Game 4, scoring 26 points. - Westbrook finished with two field goal attempts in the paint Thursday (1-2) after going 8-of-10 in Game 4. It's only the second time in Westbrook's playoff career with two or fewer attempt in the paint.
    Spurs this season (including playoffs) are 61-2 (.968) after finishing the 3rd quarter with a lead. That's the most wins and the best win percentage in the NBA this season. The rest of the NBA had a win percentage of .784.
    The Spurs have won 7 straight home games by at least 15 points dating back to Game 7 of the first round against Dallas. That is the longest such streak in NBA playoff history. That includes a 35-point win in Game 2 and a 28-point in Game 5 Thursday.
    The Thunder lost Game 5 by 28 points and have lost their three road games in the series by a combined 80 points. That would be the worst points differential on the road since the first year of the conference finals in 1971.
    The Spurs won Game 5 by 28 points over the Thunder and history says that bodes well moving forward... In NBA history, each of the 3 previous teams to post a 20-point win in Game 5 of Conference Finals tied 2-2 not only won the series, but went on to win the NBA title as well.
    The tweak to the Spurs' lineup may have helped open the paint in Game 5. The Spurs shot 71.4 percent in the paint Thursday, their best in a game this postseason, after shooting a postseason-low 45.0 percent in Game 4. The Spurs shot 73.7 percent (14-of-19) with Serge Ibaka on court in Game 5 (43.4 percent in Games 3 and 4).

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