Take lead in Western Conference finals
Tim Duncan dropped in 27 points, Argentine Manu Ginobili added all 18 of his in the second half, and the San Antonio Spurs took advantage of the loss of Serge Ibaka to dominate the inside and the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-105 on Monday night to take the lead in the Western Conference finals opener.
“We got to the middle and we were able to make some shots tonight,” Duncan said. “Losing Serge changed their game a lot.”
With the Thunder power forward and top defender Ibaka out for the remainder of the post-season with a left calf injury, the top-seeded Spurs controlled the lane, 66-28.
Spurs guard Tony Parker had 14 points with 12 assists. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green had 16 points apiece for the Spurs, who shot a sizzling 57.5 per cent from the field (50-87) to snap a string of five straight losses and 10 of the last 12 to the Thunder.
League MVP Kevin Durant scored 28 points, Russell Westbrook added 25 while Derek Fisher finished with 16 for the second-seeded Thunder, who were clearly hampered by the absence of Ibaka.
After trailing by as many as 15 in the first half, Durant and Westbrook picked up the pace. The dynamic duo combined for 19 third-quarter points as the Thunder stormed ahead, 78-77 with 4 minutes 44 seconds left.
It would be their last lead, however. The Spurs went on a period-ending 12-4 run as Ginobili opened and closed the burst with layups for an 89-82 edge.
San Antonio started the final frame with a 6-0 run fuelled by a Green triple and Leonard’s spinning layup off the glass that capped an extended 18-4 blitz for a 95-82 cushion en route to the runaway win.
The Thunder will look to bounce back in Wednesday’s game 2 at San Antonio of the best-of-seven series.
“We’re a no excuse team, we have to play better,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.