Thunder take 3-2 series lead
Spurs on verge of stunning collapse
SAN ANTONIO - Kevin Durant scored 27 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder are on the brink of the NBA Finals, beating the San Antonio Spurs, 108-103, in Game 5 Monday night and moving within a victory of a series knockout.
Russell Westbrook added 23 and the Thunder took a 3-2 lead in a wildly entertaining Western Conference finals. Looking invincible while carrying a 20-win streak a week ago, the Spurs have lost three straight and are on the verge of a stunning collapse.
Manu Ginobili scored 34 in a smashing return to the starting lineup. But trailing, 106-103, and the Spurs down to their last shot, Ginobili missed an off-balance 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Game 6 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder can punch their ticket to the NBA Finals in the place they haven’t lost all postseason.
They’re bringing home just what they needed: the must-win on the road if they’re going to pull this series out.
Oklahoma City pulled it off behind their stars. James Harden scored 20, joining Durant and Westbrook as the only Thunder players in double figures.
Harden hit the biggest shot, draining a 3-pointer with 28.8 seconds left that pushed Oklahoma City’s lead to 5. He admitted afterward that the ball was supposed to go to Durant but he had no choice but to let go with the shot clock winding down and Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard in his face.
“The shot clock was running down and I had to make a play,’’ Harden said. “Leonard was playing great defense on me. I just shot it with confidence. West Conference finals - that’s a big shot.’’
Tony Parker had 20 points and Tim Duncan had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs.
After remaining unbeaten for 50 days before arriving in Oklahoma City, San Antonio has lost three games in five days.
“Championship teams win on the road,’’ Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Oklahoma City just did that.’’
It’s the first time the Spurs have lost three in a row all season.
“That was a total team effort,’’ Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Everybody did their job. I thought we played as hard as we can play.’’
Durant scored 22 of his points in the second half. Westbrook also had 12 assists.
Not wanting the series to slip away, Popovich moved Ginobili to the starting lineup in place of Danny Green, who came in shooting a combined 8 of 28 in this series. It was the first start for Ginobili since March and just his eighth all season.
Green’s days as a starter began looking numbered after Game 3. He couldn’t save his job before leaving Oklahoma City - Green shot 4 of 12 in both losses combined - and Popovich couldn’t wait any longer with the season in the balance.
The gambit drew mixed results. It looked like a no-brainer with Ginobili leading all scorers at halftime with 14, but new rotations for the Spurs made for rocky possessions. None more so than in the second quarter, when the Spurs shot 38 percent and trailed by as much as 14 before coming back in the second half.