This has been about more than San Antonio’s experience and poise trumping Oklahoma City’s youth and wildness. This has also been about talent, and as mercurial as the Thunder’s young guns might be, the Spurs have more contributing parts.
And so, with point guard Tony Parker leading the way, San Antonio withstood a token OKC run to win Game 2, 120-111 victory and 2-0 Western Conference series advantage. It was the Spurs’ 20th straight win, an NBA record spanning the end of the regular season and playoffs.
Maybe going home for Games 3 and 4 will provide Oklahoma City some relief. Still, the Thunder need to do something about Parker, who was splendid with 34 points and eight assists. His crafty play and floor generalship led a precision Spurs attack that built as much as a 22-point lead.
The lead was 16 going into the fourth quarter, but OKC battled back behind Kevin Durant (31 points) and James Harden (30 points off the bench) to within six points. But Parker and reserve Manu Ginobili (20 points), among others held Oklahoma City at bay.
“It was just one of those nights,” said Parker, who was 15-for-21 shooting. “I felt great.”
He played that way. And so did his teammates. Forward Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points, including three 3-pointers for the Spurs. Tim Duncan was just 2-for-11 (with one basket a strong dunk over Serge Ibaka), but had 12 rebounds and six assists.
San Antonio’s precise execution destroyed Oklahoma City’s defense for three quarters. The Spurs shot 63 percent from the field and 64 percent from 3-point range at one point in the third quarter. They ended up with 27 assists on their 43 baskets.
Parker was at the head of San Antonio’s success, even as coach Gregg Popovich got on him about deciding when to shoot and when to pass.
”It’s always been a battle my whole career,” Parker said, ”when you’re a scoring point guard and Pop wants you to score, then he wants you to pass, and he wants you to score, and he wants you to pass. You go back and forth.”
Parker had his highest scoring average since 2008-09 (18.3 points), but he also averaged 7.7 assists in the regular season, a career high. In his 11th season, Parker finally feels comfortable knowing when his demanding coach wants him to pass and when to shoot.
He seems to have figured it out. But OKC has not figured out how to defend the Spurs — or how to attack it. Point guard Russell Westbrook, in particular, seems overmatched at times and reckless others. He had 27 points but shot just 10-for 24 to get them.
Westbrook, Durant and Harden combined for 88 points; the rest of the team, 23. Against a team of supreme depth and discipline, that’s not a good thing.