By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The fourth quarter, which had become the Bermuda Triangle of basketball for the Thunder during the regular season, has now turned into a house of horrors for the Spurs in this series.
The Thunder held San Antonio to just 28.6 percent shooting in the final 12 minutes and Russell Westbrook scored 10 of his 35 points in that last quarter to lead OKC to a thrilling 95-91 win and a 3-2 series lead.
The Thunder also went big again at the end with Enes Kanter playing all but six seconds of the fourth quarter and Steven Adams going for more than nine minutes. Those two combined for eight points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter, plus some outstanding defense on the Spurs who haven’t found an answer for the Stache Brothers yet.
Adams finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds and Kanter had nine points and 13 boards.
Just like in Game 2 in the Alamo City this one had a controversial ending with an official deciding not to blow his whistle.
Game 2 had that strange and wild final 13.5 seconds of chaos where the NBA decided the officials missed five calls.
Last night’s was a bit more subtle but still with 9.3 seconds left and the Thunder up by just one, it certainly appeared Spurs star Kawhi Leonard reached in and fouled Westbrook on his way to the basket.
But as we’ve seen in these playoffs some things that might be called in the regular season aren’t being called now and Leonard’s reach and grab wasn’t forceful enough to come close to breaking Westbrook’s stride, much less earning a toot of the whistle from Jason Phillips so Westbrook kept going all the way in to add two more points to that Thunder lead and bury the Spurs again at a place where’d they’d lost just once in the entire regular season.
The Thunder have now beaten them twice in eight days.
“Keep going till the whistle blows,” said Russ of the critical sequence. “My job is to be in attack mode.”
And that’s what he did all night long.
Those attacks at times cost the Thunder, Westbrook turned the ball over eight times. But he also led all scorers with those 35 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished nine assists and had a couple of steals. He was also a calm and cool 8-for-8 at the free throw line.
“Russ was a maniac tonight, keeping us in it,” said Thunder superstar Kevin Durant who finished with 23 points on 8-for-21 shooting.
The Thunder struggled throughout the game trying to hold onto the ball, turning it over a whopping 20 times. But the Spurs managed to get just 18 points off all those giveback, a credit to OKC’s defense which held San Antonio to 40.2 percent shooting overall.
OKC started this series with a poor effort in Game 1 that led to a Spurs blowout win and the led many fans and media members to wondering if the Thunder would somehow find a way to make the series competitive much less actually have a chance to win it.
Now all of that talk has turned completely around and it’s the Spurs who face a must win game on the road to extend their season and the Thunder who are coming back home with the chance to actually win a series most figured they’d already lost.
If you thought The Peake was loud on Sunday night…well better get those ear plugs ready because Thursday night will be Loud City at its ear drum busting best.