OKLAHOMA CITY — When the Oklahoma City Thunder left San Antonio a week ago, things were not good.
They trailed the Spurs 2-0 in the Western Conference finals and had been written off by those who saw them lose by 35 points in Game 2.
However, in those seven days, the Thunder have turned the tide and possibly snatched momentum in the series with consecutive home wins.
The latest came Tuesday, when guard Russell Westbrook and forward Kevin Durant combined to score 71 points to lead Oklahoma City to a 105-92 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, with Game 5 scheduled for Thursday in San Antonio.
“When we left San Antonio, we didn’t feel good,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “It wasn’t a good feeling. We were disappointed in ourselves. I was disappointed in myself. I was disappointed that we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing.”
Westbrook fixed that Tuesday, when he tallied 40 points, 10 assists and five steals — becoming the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989 to post those numbers in the playoffs.
“It’s fun to watch,” Durant said of Westbrook. “You know how much he wants to win and just lay it all out there and play extremely hard every possession.”
Durant added 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting.
No other Thunder player scored in double figures, but forward Serge Ibaka added nine points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots as he helped hold the Spurs to just 36 points in the paint. The Thunder have won both games Ibaka has played in this series.
“We didn’t play smart on a consistent basis and all of a sudden we were going to see if Serge could block a shot or something,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I thought about passing a picture out on the bench so they’d know who Serge was.”
Oklahoma City built a 27-point lead in the third quarter and seemed to have the game well in hand when Popovich benched his starters midway through the period.
Forward Boris Diaw, guard Marco Belinelli and guard Cory Joseph led the Spurs on a run that reduced the deficit to 12 points early in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as San Antonio got.
Westbrook and Durant kept scoring at will against the second team as Popovich allowed forward Tim Duncan, guard Tony Parker and guard Manu Ginobili to sit and watch the final 12 minutes.
“I trust Pop,” Parker said of being benched. “Pop did a great job all season long saving our energy (so we would) be fresh for the playoffs, and that’s his decision and I respect it. My job is to be ready for Game 5.”
Parker paced the Spurs with 14 points and four assists. Diaw scored 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds, Joseph scored 11 points and forward Kawhi Leonard added 10. Duncan was held to nine points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson rolled his right ankle early in the first quarter. After trying to play through it, he was taken back to the locker room and was replaced in the lineup by Jeremy Lamb. Jackson returned to start the second quarter, but he lasted just 90 seconds before heading back to the locker room.
That meant more minutes for Westbrook, which he had no problem with.
“Our job is to worry about us,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got to win the game, regardless of who they have on the floor, regardless of (whether) they’re worried about the next game. We’re worried about tonight’s game.”
San Antonio started off the night with a quick 8-0 run, with Parker attacking the middle of the Thunder defense. It looked as if the Spurs had solved their issues from Game 3.
However, the Thunder outscored the Spurs 26-12 to close out the first quarter with a six-point lead.
Despite the injury to Jackson, who came back in the second half, Oklahoma City was able to control the pace behind Westbrook and Lamb. Westbrook was especially aggressive in driving to the basket and picking up fouls on the Spurs.
Once again, though, it was the Thunder defense that took San Antonio out of its comfort zone. Oklahoma City compiled seven steals and six blocks in the first half, and the Thunder led 58-43 at the break.
“That was another good defensive game,” Brooks said. “That’s one of the things that we wanted to do when we got back into our building: Play the type of defense that we’re capable of playing. We used our length and athleticism to disrupt their flow, and a lot of guys were involved.”
NOTES: The Spurs didn’t hold a shootaround Tuesday. Coach Gregg Popovich gave a detailed account of how he spent the day in Oklahoma City. “I read Wine Spectator,” Popovich told an inquisitive reporter, “read a little bit of a book, slept, worked out, had breakfast. Anything else you want to know personally that I might have done?” … Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks went with the same starting five for second consecutive game. “The guys off the bench have to be ready. It’s a game-time, game-flow decision,” Brooks said.
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