After winning two back-to-back games at home, it was easy to predict that the San Antonio Spurs would win it all. It was no surprise to see the veterans come out, play organized ball and show why they've been here before. But don't be too quick to rule out the Oklahoma City Thunder who had other plans.
With an outstanding performance in game four, the Thunder tied the series 2-2 by defeating the Spurs 109-103. This is NBA playoff basketball at its best, especially when it features the two best teams in the Western Conference battling it out. The first two games of the series San Antonio looked almost perfect on both offense and defense. But OKC looked even better in games three and four with both their starting five and bench contributing.
Leaving no room for error, they evened the series winning two games back-to-back at home. Now headed back to AT&T Center for game five who will break the tie? The Thunder outscored the Spurs 29-17 shooting 72.2 percent in the second quarter and holding them to just 31.8 percent.
The trio of Kevin Durant (who scored 18 of his 36 points in the fourth), Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins was the catalyst in San Antonio's fall. Ibaka scored a career-high 26 points on 11-for-11 shooting. The first three quarters both Serge and Perkins combined for 37 points to dominate the Spurs early.
"All of their bigs were really outstanding tonight," Gregg Popovich said. "What'd they hit like 22 of 25 or something crazy like that? If you did a shooting drill with nobody guarding you I don't think you could do that."
One key component missing from San Antonio's offense was Tony Parker. He was phenomenal in the first two games but went 5-15 from the field to finish with 12 points. Both Parker and Manu Ginobili were missing in action along side Tim Duncan who led the Spurs with 21 points.
Much of the success with San Antonio is dependent on Tony, Parker, Ginobili and Duncan. If two or more are unavailable than there's trouble ahead for the Spurs. Committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers in game three and lack of defense in game four is a big concern when the series heads back to San Antonio.
"When a player that talented gets hot, he's really hard to contain," said Manu. "We tried different things and they didn't work. We made a great effort in the second half but we just couldn't contain him [Durant] down the stretch."
Whoever wins game five will set the tone and likely move on to play for an NBA title. Considering Russell Westbrook was limited to only seven points, OKC demolished the Spurs. It's young versus old, and the Thunder is a fast paced, up-tempo team led by Durant, who was second in the NBA's MVP voting behind LeBron James.
Then you have San Antonio who has four NBA Championships and plays at a high level without the flash. Often regarded as one of NBA's most boring team, the Spurs are not worried since they've here before. This is the moment we've been waiting for -- two teams playing their best basketball and for the Western Conference Finals -- it doesn't get any better than this.
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