Durant powers Thunder past Spurs 109-103
AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Kevin Durant scored 18 of his 36 points in a scintillating final 7 minutes, Serge Ibaka added a career-high 26 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder evened the Western Conference finals at two games apiece by beating the San Antonio Spurs 109-103 Saturday night.
After seeing his team’s 15-point lead dwindle to four, Durant took over midway through the fourth quarter by scoring all 16 of the Thunder’s points during a span of just over 5 minutes to keep the Spurs at bay.
With All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook limited to seven points, Durant did almost all of the damage late to send the series back to San Antonio all square for Game 5 on Monday night.
The three-time scoring champion hit three straight jumpers, the last one coming after he bumped into Tony Parker in the lane to draw a foul and set up a three-point play. Then he attacked the rim for his next three baskets, getting to the line again when he was fouled on a layup off of James Harden’s alley-oop.
Durant hit another jumper after coming off a Westbrook screen for the last basket in his personal run – and the Spurs were still within striking distance. Rookie Kawhi Leonard bracketed a pair of 3-pointers around that Durant jumper, and the Spurs were only down 102-96 with 1:24 left.
The Spurs succeeded in getting the ball out of Durant’s hands on the next possession, only for him to provide the assist on Harden’s 3-pointer from the left wing that bumped the lead to nine.
Durant hit two free throws in the final minute to help close it out.
Oklahoma City is trying to become the 15th team in NBA history to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a seven-game series, and the eighth to do it since 2004. The Thunder avoided an even trickier task by winning.
Only eight teams have ever overcome a 3-1 hole, and only two had done it while needing two wins on the road – the 1995 Rockets and 1968 Celtics.
Tim Duncan had 21 points for San Antonio, which had won 20 in a row before losing Game 3. Leonard added 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Spurs wiped away most of a 15-point deficit with a run that coincided with coach Gregg Popovich turning to DeJuan Blair, who’s had some notoriously big games against the Thunder but had occupied a spot on the bench for most of the playoffs after starting 62 of the 66 regular-season games.
Blair sprung free for a layup early in an 18-5 comeback, and Manu Ginobili’s 3-pointer from the top of the key trimmed Oklahoma City’s lead to 73-71 with 1:16 to go in the third quarter.
The Spurs were within four after Duncan’s left-handed runner with 6:55 left in the game. That’s when Thunder coach Scott Brooks called a timeout, and Durant came out of it firing away. He made seven of his last eight shots and also finished with eight assists and six rebounds.
Ibaka made all 11 of his shots – and all four of his free throws – to lead a strong performance from Oklahoma City’s frontcourt while Durant’s usual running mates, Westbrook and Harden, both struggled.
Ibaka, starting center Kendrick Perkins and reserve Nick Collison combined to go 22 for 25 from the field for 49 points. Westbrook missed eight of his 10 shots and Harden was limited to eight points.
The Thunder shot 56 percent and outrebounded San Antonio 41-31.
Perkins and Collison had two-handed jams during a string of 10 straight Thunder points that flipped the game late in the first quarter. Stephen Jackson stopped it with a three-point play that was originally ruled an offensive foul – that would have been his third – before officials conferred and ruled Collison was inside the circle and was guilty of the foul.
Ginobili followed two possessions later with a four-point play, taking advantage when Westbrook failed to get back on defense after missing a wild layup in transition.
Oklahoma City pulled right back ahead with a 12-3 run while its two All-Stars came out for a break, and Westbrook nailed a 3-pointer from the left side soon after returning to provide the Thunder’s first double-digit lead at 43-33 with 4:44 to go before halftime.
Perkins had another two-handed dunk and Durant hit a jumper in the final minute of the first half to push the edge to 55-43, and Leonard’s 3-pointer was a fraction after the buzzer for the Spurs. Oklahoma City shot 57.5 percent in the first half and had a 24-17 rebounding advantage.
NOTES: After committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers in Game 3, San Antonio had 10 that led to 11 Oklahoma City points. … Ryan Seacrest sat in the front row near midcourt.