With the Pacers and Heat already taken care of, the Thunder and Spurs had to finish their series to finalize the 2014 NBA Finals Match up. Going into the Thunder's home game against San Antonio, the Spurs held the lead of the series 3-2 and looked to close out the series in 6.
Right from the beginning we could see how bad the Spurs wanted to end the series. Kawhi Leonard started the passion with a monster dunk on Serge Ibaka (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wek2Hw6qgM), and continued to attack throughout the entire first quarter. Leonard eventually finished with 6 points in the first and finished the game with 17.
However, the Spurs did not seem to be playing at their best. They were 0-5 from three, had four turnovers, only 2 assists, and were shooting 37% from the floor. The Spurs had stints of great ball movement, but for most of the first quarter, they were unable to break the Thunder's defense.
The Thunder had just as much energy with Durant coming out firing. Right off the bat, Durant sunk two fadeaways off the smaller Danny Green. Durant finished the quarter with 6 points and finished the game with 31 points. Westbrook was in attack mode and even finished the quarter with 6 free throws, and 10 points. The Thunder were not getting any better shots than San Antonio, but their skill and athleticism allowed them to score one more time than the Spurs. The Thunder walked out into the 2nd quarter with a 23-20 lead.
In the second quarter (Where, in the series, the team who won the second quarter has gone on to win the game), the Spurs and Thunder were battling and neither team could get an open look. Both teams came out in the second quarter and both failed to score on three straight possessions. For the Thunder, they were throwing the ball away (Finished game with 19 turnovers) and playing one on one, but not making any shots. The Spurs were just missing all their three's, and Danny Green continued to play terrible on the road (Finished game 2-6 from three).
The only way the Spurs were keeping in the game were with a rare three pointer and with offensive rebounds. The Spurs were keeping the ball alive and finished the half with 7 offensive rebounds. On the other side, the Thunder continued to play one on one and used pick and rolls, but were athletic enough to find open looks with teammates (Finished game with 19 assists).
Finally, a huge part of the second quarter was the Spurs inability to play their usual style of offense. The Spurs were not moving the ball, playing one on one, and the Thunder's strength and athletic ability was dominating. The Spurs finished the half with 8 turnovers, only 6 assists, 22% from three, and 36% from the field. Russell Westbrook was loving the Spurs offense and took advantage by swiping the ball 4 times in the half.
By the end of the half, the Thunder went on a run based off of a Tony Parker turnover and missed three, and had the 49-42 lead going into half. Overall, this was the worst half for the Spurs all post-season, finishing with the lowest amount of points in the first half all playoffs.
Keys to half:
Spurs not moving ball = Thunder can score on one on one
Spurs turnovers = Thunder's athletes running and scoring
Spurs can't make a three (4-18)
Spurs offensive rebounds (7) = More chances
Thunder's athletes playing great (Durant: 15 Westbrook: 15 Reggie: 12)
At the beginning of the third quarter, Gregg Popovich seemed to be packing in the game and ready to move on to game 7. He announced Tony Parker will not play the rest of the game with ankle soreness. Although I assume he would not have done this with a healthy Parker, it felt like it was almost a death sentence for San Antonio. However, the Spurs came out with more energy and grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in the first 3 minutes (Plus a Kawhi Leonard dunk to tie the game at 51).
Just like that, the game had gone from finished to a tie game with 9 minutes left in the third. On the run, the Spurs had more energy with the offensive boards, but on defense, they were stopping Durant on one on one (3 turnovers and 0-2 on run). From the 9 minute point, the game went back and forth and neither team could take and hold the lead.
Kawhi Leonard kept the Spurs in the game with 8 points in the third quarter, but Durant started to heat up again and hit two straight shots (5 straight points).
Then, the Thunder got hit with a tough call as Westbrook went tumbling into Patty Mills and picked up his 4th foul (4 minute mark). From there, the Spurs looked ready to take over the game, and they did just that. The Spurs went on a 17-6 run, from Durant struggling (2 turnovers in 4 minutes), Thunder missing open looks, and the Spurs scoring on 5 straight possessions. The most important possession had to be the last with Danny Green making an "and-one" three and pushing the Spurs lead to 10 at the end of the third. The Spurs had out scored the Thunder 37-20 in the third quarter!
The Spurs held a 79-69 lead going into the fourth, and the biggest question was: WHERE IS DURANT!?
In the fourth quarter, the Thunder made no improvements in closing in on the Spurs lead. The Thunder shot 0-4 in the first 3 minutes of the fourth quarter, and were getting all their shots from the free throw line. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the league's MVP, Kevin Durant, shot none of those shots.
Throughout the first half of the fourth quarter, the Thunder were able to get within 6 points of the Spurs, but were not able to finish the come back. The Thunder were lacking in their best player taking their shots, as Westbrook shot 4 times in the period of time, while Durant only shot once - A tip in off of a Westbrook missed lay up.
On the other side, the Spurs were playing much better on offense, moving the ball, making three's, and making one on one shots when needed. The Spurs had 11 assists, 6 turnovers, and made 7 three's compared to a dismal first half. A big player in the win was Boris Diaw as he had 24 points in the game, and was making great one on one moves.
It seemed as if the Spurs team play was too much for the Thunder's 4 main scorers (Durant, Westbrook, Jackson, Ibaka), and the game seemed to be coming to a close. However, the great Chesapeake Arena did not give up and neither did the Thunder.
Ibaka threw down a dunk, Westbrook made a pull up jumper, and Durant made a lay up off of a fantastic feed (From Jackson) to push the lead to only 2 points. The Thunder had gone a 7-0 run off of their fantastic four with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Through the next minute, the Thunder gave the ball to Russell Westbrook, not Kevin Durant (The NBA's MVP), and Westbrook threw away two terrible turnovers. Westbrook's two turnovers led to the Spurs expanding their lead back to 6.
However, immediately after his mistakes, Westbrook made up for them with a great driving lay up and then another steal (ended game with 6 steals!). He pushed the lead back to 2 points and Durant's two free throws after a Duncan foul led to a tie game with one minute left in the game. Chesapeake Arena was going crazy!
Of course, the game was not done, and the Thunder realized that. Serge Ibaka, on defense, goaltended a lay up by Manu, but the refs slipped up and did not call a goaltend! On the other end, the Thunder gave the ball to their MVP and Durant made a driving lay up through traffic. The Thunder had the 2 point lead with 30 seconds left!
The Arena was going crazy and had all the momentum to win the game. However, the one thing that can overcome momentum and talent, is experience. The Spurs came right back at the Thunder and gave Manu a wide open three point look.
The Spurs held a one point lead on OKC, and on defense, they forced a Durant turnover when he fell to the ground and Manu hit two free throws to push the lead to 2 points.
However, the one missed free throw from Manu came back to haunt the Spurs as Westbrook exploded to the basket on the other end and made two clutch free throws.
The Spurs did not want to go to OT, as they need their players rested for either game seven or for the NBA Finals. Therefore, the Spurs needed to hit a game winner. Only one player on the floor had the guts to hit a shot like this: Manu Ginobili.
Manu took the ball, drove down the lane, took a step back, and shot over Russell Westbrook. Clank. The Thunder and Spurs were going to overtime.
In OT, the game went back and forth for the first four and half minutes. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder down the charge with 4 points in OT, but it was Manu and Duncan who scored a combined 9 points in OT. The Spurs held a 3 point lead with 20 seconds left, and the Thunder needed a three.
Of course, who else would the Thunder go to other than the MVP? Of course Durant took the three, but today, his shot fell short and missed the game tying three. Boris Diaw grabbed the rebound, made one free throw, and clinched the game for the Spurs.
Kid Clutch did not come up clutch today. He shot 0-3 in OT, and fatigue set in for Durant. The Spurs team out lasted the Thunder's fantastic four (Reggie, Durant, Ibaka, Westbrook scored 102 points of the 107 points for OKC), and are advancing to the NBA Finals!
Final score: 112-107
Keys to game:
1. Spurs played as team in second half (Ball movement, out scored Thunder bench by 45 points)