Thunder Storm to Western Conference Finals After Closing Out Spurs

Thursday, May 12th 2016, 11:38 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger

After the Thunder began the Western Conference Semfinals with a blowout loss in Game 1 which made people question the very fabric of the team, OKC was able was able to redeem itself with the way it finished out the series by winning the final three games. It was clear the Thunder was ready to make a statement, and Thursday night’s 113-99 victory to close out the Spurs and advance to the Western Conference Finals was just that.

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Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 37 points and nine rebounds while Russell Westbrook added 28 points and 12 assists.

With a chance to finish off the dynasty that is the Spurs in Oklahoma City, the Thunder opened up the game a bit tight. Westbrook tallied a turnover on the Thunder’s opening possession, and the team as a whole missed its first four shots as OKC’s loyal fan base waited patiently to take their seats until a basket was made by the home team.

While the Thunder was missing shots, the Spurs were able to build up an early 19-13 lead after Kawhi Leonard completed an and-1 layup over Andre Roberson with 3:57 left in the opening quarter. There was a sense of nervousness throughout Chesapeake Energy Arena, but there were brighter moments ahead for the Thunder faithful. 

Westbrook drained back-to-back elbow jumpers, Durant added a silky jumper of his own, and a next thing you know, the Thunder had closed the quarter on an emphatic 12-to-0 run and was suddenly leading by six points.

OKC’s offensive surge wasn’t over, as Randy Foye’s shot to open the quarter got things rolling, and once the dust settled a bit, the Thunder had ripped off a 20-to-4 run capped off when Westbrook zipped a helper to Steven Adams for an easy layup.

While OKC’s run to open the quarter let the basketball world know it was in business, the Thunder’s run to close out the second frame was more defining. Thanks to suffocating team-defense to go with ball movement on offense, the Thunder closed the quarter on a 17-to-2 run, where OKC bulldozed San Antonio on both ends of the court. The rambunctious home crowd was going bonkers, but roared the loudest when Durant drained a contested 3-pointer to close the half and give his team a 24-point lead.

OKC held San Antonio to 31.1 percent shooting in the first half while the Spurs only managed to total six assists. The Thunder was tremendous on the defensive end of the floor, with every player giving maximum effort on every possession. 

OKC expanded its lead to 26 points after three quarters, but with the game thought to be in hand in the fourth, the Spurs flipped the script and got as close as 11 points with 3:45 left in the game. Both Leonard and Tim Duncan led the charge, and the Spurs' persistence to stay in the game despite the massive deficit was dauntless. 

Ultimately the Thunder was able to buckle down in the game’s final minutes, as Durant and Westbrook both got to the basket and finished at the rim enough times to seal the Thunder's fourth Western Conference Finals in the last six years.

Steven Adams continued his dominance with another double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds), while Andre Roberson had his best game of the season with 14 points and seven rebounds. Enes Kanter added seven points and seven rebounds off the bench as OKC moves to 8-2 overall in closeout games.

Leonard led the Spurs with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Tim Duncan had a monster game with 19 points and five rebounds. The only other player in double-digits was LaMarcus Aldridge with 18 points and 14 rebounds, but Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich opted not to play the big man down the stretch.

After taking down a historically good team in the Spurs, the Thunder now faces the task of dethroning the team with the best record of all time in the Western Conference Finals. Game 1 between the Thunder and Warriors is set for Monday at 8 p.m.