The Oklahoma City Thunder had the benefit of their partisan home crowd to help them even their series against the Spurs, but now the Western Conference finals return to San Antonio.
Home security helps Thunder even their NBA series with Spurs
History is not on the side of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Kevin Durant is, and that may make all the difference going into Monday night's Game 5 at San Antonio.
Only 14 teams in NBA history have come back to win a seven-game play-off series after losing the first two games.
"They did what they had to do. They protected their home court here," said Tim Duncan, who led San Antonio with 21 points. "We're going to try to go home and do exactly the same."
Durant scored 36 points and Serge Ibaka added a career-high 26 points to lead the Thunder.
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 five minutes to keep the Spurs at bay.
"We tried to do a couple of different things but his play was better than anything we did defensively, that's for sure," said Gregg Popovich, the Spurs coach. "He finished it off in fine fashion."
With All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook limited to seven points, Durant did almost all of the damage late in the game.
Durant, who finished behind LeBron James in MVP voting, 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.
"He just got going. Once a player of that much talent starts scoring, it's hard to stop them," said Stephen Jackson, who was repeatedly bumped off by screens while trying to stick with Durant during his hot stretch.
"He got into a nice rhythm. I was able to stop him one time, but they got the lob and the and-one [off the foul]. He was just rolling. It was kind of too late to stop him."
Durant hit two free throws in the final minute to help close it out.
"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 ... I just wanted to stick with what we were doing, but it started to open up for me, and I could see some lanes that gave me some opportunities to make some shots."
The Spurs were within four after Duncan's left-handed runner with 6:55 left in the game. That is when Scott Brooks, the Thunder coach, 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.
"It was hard because were on a run, we were feeling good about ourselves and we just couldn't make a stop," Ginobili said.
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