By Suave Francisco
The Oklahoma City Thunder approached Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference semi-finals the same way they approached Game 1, with no urgency on the defensive end. That cost them throughout 75 percent of the contest, but a fourth quarter surge propelled them past the San Antonio Spurs, 111-97 and evened up the series at two apiece.
With many people thinking this could be Kevin Durant's last game in an Oklahoma City jersey, the arena was loud and energized throughout most of the game. Kawhi Leonard and seemingly the entire Spurs team thought otherwise, though, as they came out firing and hitting most of their shots while making defensive stops too. It seemed like Oklahoma City kept getting baskets, but couldn't parlay that into defensive stops throughout most of the game. Honestly, about halfway through the second quarter, this game looked a lot like Game 3. Russell wasn't hitting much of anything and no one was making a stop. San Antonio actually led by 11 points at one point during the game and didn't look like they were going to let up. Kawhi was being Kawhi...doing everything seemingly effortless, Aldridge was hitting everything, Tony Parker looked like the Tony Parker of the mid-2000s, everything just went their way.
It wasn't until the second half where things really started looking up. Still not playing any defense, Oklahoma City kept going back-and-forth with the Spurs, but seemingly couldn't get quite over the hump. They would keep tieing them, but gave half-effort on the defensive end and allowed San Antonio to stay in control of the game. At one point during the third quarter, Kevin and Russell were shooting a combined 9-26 from the field, and the "third option" on this team, Serge Ibaka didn't do much to help the struggling shooting night, only scoring seven points off just six shots. It wasn't until late in third quarter that things started to pick up. Russell realized his shot was off this game by then and did what he said he was going to do after Game 3, share the ball more. He finished the game with 14 points, and 15 assists, off 5-18 shooting.
The fourth quarter was when things seemed to come to light for the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant and Steven Adams who held it down in the paint with 16 points and 11 rebounds to add to that. Dion Waiters also played a solid game, scoring 17 points on 7-11 shooting.
Kevin Durant entered the final quarter with 24 points...he finished with a playoff career-high 41. He hit 17 points in the final quarter, with the best defensive player in the NBA, Leonard guarding him. He looked like MVP Kevin again, for the first time in a long time. He's not had this huge of a quarter where he's literally taken over the game in such a long time and it was great watching him return to his old form.
This was a desperate win for the Thunder, but they got it done. The series is now evened up going back to San Antonio where game 5 will be on Tuesday.