Thunder, Spurs meet in pivotal Game 5

10:35 AM, Jun 4, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Home cooking has been the story in both conference finals series so far with the host winning all eight games to date.

In the West, San Antonio took the first two tests in its set with the Thunder in the Alamo City before Oklahoma City rebounded to hold serve in the Sooner State with the pivotal Game 5 set for South Texas on Monday.

Kevin Durant scored half of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and OKC got some unexpected offense from Serge Ibaka to beat the Spurs, 109-103, deadlocking the series in Game 4 on Saturday.

The 6-foot-10 Ibaka, known more for his shot-blocking and defense, had a career-high 26 points and made all 11 of his field goal attempts, finishing one hoop shy of the NBA playoff record for most shots made without a miss, set by Larry McNeill of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1975.

Ibaka was also just the second player to go 11-for-11, matching Scott Wedman in 1985 with the Boston Celtics.

"Serge continuously knocked those shots down in the first three quarters," OKC guard Russell Westbrook said. "Then when it was time for Kevin to iso and give us what he needs, he has a lot of space. That just shows the commitment that we're making the right play, and it worked for us."

Durant, who went 7-of-9 from the floor in the final quarter, scored 16 straight points for his team at one point to keep the San Antonio at bay after the visitors trimmed the deficit to four midway through the period.

Oklahoma City, which moved to 7-0 at home this postseason, also received 15 points and nine boards from Kendrick Perkins, but Westbrook was limited to seven points on 2-of-10 shooting.

"He opened up the defense by making passes. That's what our guys did tonight, finding the bigs for open shots," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Durant. "Serge and Perk had an offensive night that we're certainly all happy with."

The Spurs had won 10 consecutive playoff games before losing on Thursday. Now they had back to San Antonio for Game 5 Monday trying to just maintain homecourt advantage.

Tim Duncan had 21 points and eight rebounds in Game 4 for the Spurs, who also received 17 points from Kawhi Leonard, 13 from Manu Ginobili and 12 from Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.

Stephen Jackson's driving layup cut the margin to 90-86 with 5 1/2 minutes left, but Durant converted a three-point play and with under three minutes left accounted for the basket that took the wind out of San Antonio's sails.

James Harden, who finished with 11 points, seven boards and seven assists, threw a pass to a cutting Durant. He finished the alley-oop jam and was fouled by Jackson. The three-point play moved the difference to 100-90 with under three minutes left, and the Spurs never got closer than six the rest of the way. Durant finally ended his 16-point scoring binge with a jumper with 1:32 left.

"I didn't tell myself that I need to go score, because what we were doing was working," Durant said. "We were passing the ball and guys were making shots. They went on a little run there. So I just wanted to stick with what we were doing. It started to open up for me, and I saw some lane that's gave me some opportunities to make some shots."

San Antonio, which had a stretch of 20 straight victories dating back to the regular season until Thursday's 20-point loss, heads home with history still on its side.

Oklahoma City is trying to become the 15th team in NBA history to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The Spurs were the last team to do it when they came back to defeat the New Orleans Hornets in the 2008 Western Conference semifinals after trailing 2-0. Meanwhile, San Antonio hasn't dropped three in a row all season.

"Both teams took care of business at home. Hopefully we continue that trend," Ginobili said.

To win the series Oklahoma City is going to have to find a way to win at least one game in Texas and Brooks understands the younger and more athletic Thunder have the Spurs on the ropes.

"We have a great opportunity in Game 5," the OKC coach said.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, on the other hand, is trying to devise a way to stop his team's first skid since April 9-11 and focused on the fact that Ibaka, Perkins and fellow big man Nick Collison aren't likely to continue playing as well as they have, at least offensively.

"Maybe they'll do it again, but I don't think so," Popovich said of the Thunder's big men. "We'll play the same defense, and if they don't shoot as well it won't be because of our defense. It'll be because they don't do as well."

The Spurs went 2-1 against the Thunder during the lockout-shortened regular season. Oklahoma City won the first meeting, 108-96 on Jan. 8 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but the Spurs came back to take the season series with a 107-96 victory Feb. 4 at the AT&T Center and a 114-105 road win March 16.

In the postseason, this rivalry dates back to 1982 when the Thunder were known as the Seattle SuperSonics. The Spurs topped Seattle three times in the playoffs, 1982, 2002 and 2005. This is the first time the franchises have met since the Sonics relocated to OKC in 2008.

Game 6 of the series is scheduled for Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

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