Leonard Scores 31 as Spurs Take 2-1 Series Lead Over Thunder

Saturday, May 7th 2016, 12:59 am
By: Brett Coppenbarger

Throughout most of the regular season the Thunder struggled to finish games in the fourth quarter, and on Friday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals, OKC ran into some familiar troubles. Despite a hard-fought effort in the final minute, the Thunder fell to the Spurs 100-96 inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena as San Antonio now holds a 2-1 lead in the series.

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Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 31 points and 11 rebounds, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 24 points and eight rebounds of his own.

Despite trailing by 15 points in the first half behind a rough shooting night, the Thunder clawed its way back into the game and took an 81-77 lead in the fourth quarter after Russell Westbrook swished a step-back 3-pointer that nearly blew the roof off of the Peake. The shot capped off an 8-to-0 OKC run, but with over seven minutes left, the game was far from over.

Spurs’ point guard Tony Parker responded by winding throughout the entire OKC defense—chased by Westbrook— before finishing a finesse layup off the backboard. The layup was only worth two points, but had a much bigger impact on the outcome of the game. Over the next four minutes Leonard, Aldridge and Parker all hit clutch jumpers to get the Spurs rolling, as San Antonio ripped off a defining 12-to-2 run to go up 91-85.

With just over a minute left in the game the Thunder trailed by seven points, but OKC wasn’t backing down without a fight.

Kevin Durant hoisted a jumper that hit off the back iron, but Westbrook soared for the ferocious tip-slam while getting fouled to put the Thunder right back in the game. On the other end of the floor, Durant stole the ball from Leonard, which led to two more Westbrook free throws that brought the Thunder within two points with 46 seconds left in the game.

OKC desperately needed a stop on defense, but it’s always easier said than done. The Thunder forced Aldridge into a tough miss, but Leonard was able to make the miraculous play on the offensive rebound with 23 seconds left and kicked the ball out to Parker. Seeing there was no shot clock, the Thunder was forced to foul the Spurs’ point guard, who finished off his incredible night with two clutch free throws which virtually sealed the game.

The Thunder struggles from the field throughout the game proved to be the main issue in the loss, seeing OKC shot only 41.5 percent from the field and totaled six more turnovers than the Spurs.

Westbrook led the Thunder in scoring with 31 points, but the superstar point guard was off throughout the game as he missed 21 shots and failed to get in a rhythm. Kevin Durant added 26 points, but he didn’t take the initiative to get the ball in his hands enough throughout the game. Ibaka scored 15 points as no other OKC player managed to score in double digits in the loss.

OKC will look to even up the series on Sunday at 7 p.m. in a must-win Game 4.