By Randy Renner
It was deja-vu all over again for the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night. The last time they had a really long winning streak (20 games in the 2011-12 regular season and playoffs) the Thunder ended it on the court at Chesapeake Energy Arena in the Western Conference Finals.
This time the Spurs came in streaking again, 19 straight wins to set a regular season franchise record. And once again the streak stopped inside The Peake.
The Thunder rode a big third quarter, some stingy defense and big games from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson to a streak stopping 106-94.
Durant led all scorers with 28 points to extend his streak of 25-point games to 39 straight. He didn't have the best shooting night, just 11-for-26, and it was late in the game when he got to 25. But he got there with a sellout crowd roaring its approval as he hit two free throws for points 25 and 26.
"That was a cool feeling (hearing the crowd). I don't want to take those moments for granted," Durant said. "It's cool to see that support from such great fans no matter what. I really appreciate it."
Westbrook added 27 and Jackson had 14 on 6-for-8 shooting. Jackson had missed the last two games with a sprained mid-back.
It was defense that road blocked the Spurs and spurred on the Thunder. OKC had just 13 points in transition in the first half, then outscored San Antonio 13-3 on the fastbreak in the third quarter alone.
That's when the defense held the Spurs to just 20 points on 30.4 percent shooting. At the same time the Thunder offense started clicking, scoring 32 points on 68.4 percent shooting.
That big third quarter erased a three point Spurs halftime lead and put the Thunder up nine going into the fourth quarter.
“Our defense was outstanding in the second half tonight," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "We started the third quarter making it tough on them and then we got out and ran. Everybody chipped in.”
The Spurs were led by Patty Mills who came off the bench to score 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting including 5-for-7 on threes. Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard each had 17 and Danny Green added 11 for San Antonio. Duncan was just 5-for-15 shooting and Tony Parker also struggled with his shot going just 3-for-10. Neither played in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder forced the Spurs into 19 turnovers leading to 30 points and that led to the Spurs downfall. 10 of those turnovers and 17 of those points came in the critical second half. The Thunder finish the regular season 4-0 against the Spurs and have won 10 of the last 12 games, including playoffs.
“They’re a hell of a basketball team," said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. "We never thought about the streak. To us it’s just another game and we watched film about turnovers, playing in a crowd that kinda thing. So we learn from every game, whether we win it or lose it.”
The Thunder are now three games behind the Spurs in the standings but just two down in the loss column and so they still have a shot at overtaking San Antonio for the top seed in the West. Remember the Thunder have the tie-breaker having swept the regular season series so they only need to tie, not pass the Spurs.
The only downside to the game was when Nick Collison had to leave in the second half with blood pouring down his face. He was elbowed in the head and have to have four staples inserted in his scalp to close the wound.
Collison, the warrior that he is, said it looked worse than it was.
“It’s one of those ones that’s awesome because you get a ton of credibility, probably. You know, with blood coming down your face.”
So the Thunder end the night with a big win and Collison gets a bloody badge of honor to show for it. All in all a pretty good night in Thunderland.