Hello again, everyone! I’m sure you missed me yesterday. Unfortunately, extenuating circumstances forced me to miss Sunday’s game, so I didn’t feel like I could really do this space justice. Besides, I had absolutely no interest in jumping into the LeBron/clutch debate in any way, shape or form. So it’s probably better this way. Anyway, let’s get to another excellent game from our friends out (relatively) west.
Oklahoma City Thunder 108, San Antonio Spurs 103: Thunder lead series 3-2
Well, I didn’t see this coming at all after game two. At that point, the Spurs had won 20 in a row overall and the first 10 games of the playoffs and didn’t look like they could be stopped. Then game three — a Thunder blowout — happened and doubt started to creep in. Game four was another Thunder win and I still didn’t know what to think. But I held to the notion that the Spurs would make the necessary adjustments to win at home.
Turns out, the adjustments they made weren’t enough. Moving Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup seemed to help when the Spurs jumped out to a 15-8 lead, but an 18-6 run by the Thunder gave them a five-point lead after one quarter and the Spurs never totally recovered.
To their credit, though, San Antonio never folded. Trailing by nine with just over five minutes left, James Harden drained a three and was fouled, putting the Thunder up 13 after the free throw. Everyone declared the game over at that point, but the Spurs rallied, immediately going on a 11-0 run. But then Harden nailed a ridiculous stepback three with the shot clock winding down to make it 106-101. The Spurs still had a chance to tie it after Ginobili got a layup and they forced a (rather questionable; Kawhi Leonard pretty clearly fouled Thabo Sefolosha before stripping the ball) turnover, but Ginobili missed a three and that was that. Kevin Durant tacked on a pair of free throws to ice it.
Both teams saw their Big Three step up; Durant had 27 points and 5 assists, Russell Westbrook didn’t shoot well, but still finished with 23 points and 12 assists to go along with 4 steals, and Harden had 20. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan had 18 points and 12 rebounds on 7/10 shooting, Tony Parker struggled a bit from the floor but still scored 20, and Manu exploded for 34-6-7. It came down to the other guys, and the Thunder got just enough more from their role players to pull it out.
Now everyone’s attention shifts to a do-or-die game six in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Obviously, if the Spurs lose they’re done, that’s how it works. But to some extent, this is a must-win for the Thunder as well. Maybe I’m giving the Spurs too much credit, or perhaps I’m not giving the Thunder enough, but I don’t see the Thunder pulling out a game seven in San Antonio, impressive game five win aside. Especially not after what would be a crushing home loss in game six. But I’ve been wrong for most of this series, so who knows? It promises to be exciting, regardless of how it turns out.
Tuesday, June 5th: