Faced with the prospect of an insurmountable series deficit, the Oklahoma City Thunder returned home Thursday and returned to the team that showed so much promise all season. In the process, they pounded the San Antonio Spurs, ending their 20-game winning streak with a 102-82 thumping.
San Antonio, which looked practically invincible in the opening two games at home, still leads the series, 2-1. But it’s a series now, as the young Thunder bolstered their confidence with a victory.
”We never thought these guys had an advantage over us even though we had lost a few,” all-star Kevin Durant (22 points) said. ”It was just good that we took it to 2-1. We didn’t want to go down 0-3.”
OKC does not face that daunting deficit because it played with a desperation on defense and a heretofore unseen sharing of the basketball on the other end, which were areas of concern in San Antonio. Specifcically, Thabo Sefolosha was sensational on both ends of the floor. He had four steals in the game’s opening three minutes. He blanketed Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who cut and spliced the Thunder in Games 1 and 2.
Sefolosha also locked up Manu Ginobili and generally caused havoc on that end of the floor. He also scored a career-high 19 points.
Sefolosha threw a wrench in the Spurs’ well-oiled offense at the start, ge
”We just played a good basketball game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”We played with a lot of force, we played with good energy, but we played defensive-minded basketball. That’s who we are. That’s how we win.”
Parker and Stephen Jackson had 16 points each for San Antonio and Tim Duncan 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
‘They played like it was a closeout game, both offensively and defensively,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”They were very active, physical, they moved the ball well on offense. They did all those things better than we did. They beat us good.”
The Spurs, who already set an NBA record for the longest winning streak carried over from the regular season into the playoffs, were trying to match the league mark for most wins to start the postseason. The Los Angeles Lakers won 11 straight to start the 1989 and 2001 playoffs. The Spurs hadn’t lost since April 11 against the Lakers at home.
Game 4 is Saturday night back in OKC. ”We wanted to bounce back after two losses. We had to play better and we did,” Sefolosha said. ”We played with energy, we played with passion in front of our home crowd. They did a great job giving us a lift.”