The San Antonio Spurs pushed their winning streak to 19 games by rallying from a nine-point fourth- quarter deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98 in the opening game of the National Basketball Association’s Western Conference finals.
Manu Ginobili scored 11 of his 26 points in the final quarter last night, when the Spurs outscored the Thunder 39-27 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
“That’s Manu’s game. He’s a scorer,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s someone we depend on to create and make things happen. That’s what he’s done for us his whole career.”
Tony Parker added 18 points while Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who improved to 9-0 in the postseason and haven’t lost since April 11. San Antonio will also host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series tomorrow.
“Each game is different and Oklahoma, they’re a very, very good team,” Parker said at a news conference. “We’re going to have to play a lot better if we want to win Game 2.”
The winner of the Western finals will face the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals is scheduled for tonight in Miami.
The Spurs trailed 73-64 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter before going on a 13-1 scoring run to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
San Antonio, which had three second-half turnovers after making 14 in the first half, pushed its lead to as much as 10 points, with Ginobili leading the way. Ginobili had missed all three of the Spurs’ regular-season meetings with Oklahoma City.
“Ginobili was terrific,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said at a news conference. “He was making shots, making threes, getting to the basket, getting to the foul line. That’s what he does, he finds cracks that you don’t even think is possible. We have to do a better job of corralling him.”
Kevin Durant scored 27 points for the Thunder, though he didn’t make a basket in the fourth quarter, when he was limited to six free throws.
“Stephen Jackson did a real good job for us down the stretch guarding Kevin Durant, which is like an impossible task,” Popovich told reporters. “He made him work hard and that combined with the rebounding and the charges it really fueled the defense.”
It was the second postseason loss for Oklahoma City, which was coming off series wins over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Spurs swept the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in the opening rounds, winning their first eight games by an average of 18.3 points. Last night’s victory was San Antonio’s second game this postseason decided by fewer than six points.
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