OKLAHOMA CITY — The San Antonio Spurs came into their matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder trying to prove a couple of things.
First, that the Thunder did not have the Spurs number and that their 19-game winning streak was for real.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, they were unable to do either as they fell to the Thunder 106-94 Thursday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The win gave the Thunder a 4-0 season sweep over San Antonio. Just as important, Oklahoma City now trails San Antonio by two games in the loss column in the Western Conference standings with eight games left.
“They are a (heck) of a basketball team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popvich said of the Thunder.
It was a tight game until the fourth quarter. But Oklahoma City (55-19) had too much energy and San Antonio (59-17) was unable to keep pace on either end.
With 5:25 left in the game, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook closed out the competitive portion of the game when he came up with a steal that led to an uncontested reverse, windmill dunk. It gave Oklahoma City a 12-point advantage and forced Spurs coach Gregg Popvich to call a timeout.
“It’s good,” Westbrook said. “I haven’t had a dunk for the Thunder fans in a while, so I thought I would do a little something tonight. It was good to get loud and have some fun.”
When the Spurs came back on the court, the starters were on the bench as the Spurs seemingly gave in to the Thunder pressure.
Guard Patty Mills paced the Spurs with 21 points off the bench. Forward Tim Duncan added 17 points and eight rebounds. Forward Kawhi Leonard scored 17. Guard Tony Parker was held to six points and three assists in the loss.
“Our mindset at the moment is taking all these games that we get and treat them like a playoff,” Mills said. “And tonight was a great opportunity to get that. We haven’t been in this position before, but this is great practice for us. Let’s make the most of it.”
Durant made 11 of 26 shots from the field to go with seven rebounds. He has now scored 25 points in 39 straight games.
Westbrook added 27 points, six assists and four steals. Forward Serge Ibaka had 12 rebounds and 11 points. Guard Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 14 points and forward Caron Butler racked up five steals.
“I thought we picked it up defensively in the second half with our hands,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We are a good defensive team because it starts with everybody.”
San Antonio burst out of the gate hitting almost everything they put up. Duncan put centers Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams through the grinder in the opening period and they went up by 11 points.
Despite shooting only 40 percent and being out-rebounded by five in the first half, the Thunder fought back and trailed 51-48 at halftime.
Westbrook led the third-quarter charge as he attacked Parker and forced the all-star and turned their matchup into a physical scrum. He even made sure the Spurs bench knew they were in for a long night when he said a few words towards them.
“I’m not gonna stop regardless if I started 0-20, turn the ball over 10 times,” Westbrook said. “I’m gonna keep coming. That’s my motto.”
NOTES: Oklahoma City C Kendrick Perkins rejoined the starting lineup after sitting out the previous 17 games with a left groin strain. Coach Scott Brooks said Perkins would be on a minute restriction as he works him back slowly, and Perkins will not play Friday at Houston. G Russell Westbrook also will sit out Friday. … San Antonio coach Greg Popovich was asked why the NBA has seen so many long winning streaks the last few seasons. “I have more important things to think about,” he said. … Popvich also gave his opinion on whether he thinks Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant should win the MVP. “It looks like it’s down to two,” Popvich said. “Take your pick.” … Despite recent rumors, Oklahoma City G Derek Fisher said he is not next in line to be the head coach for the New York Knicks. “That is not in my radar or in my scope or anything that I’ve thought about, even coaching in general,” Fisher said.
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