"You play to win the game. Hello! You play to win the game! You don't play to just play it."
Those words were made famous by former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards' press conference rant a few years back, but they rang ever so true in Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
Many speculated that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would rest Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Many also speculated that Thunder coach Scott Brooks would sit Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson. But…
You play…to win…the game.
Parker played. So did Duncan. So did Westbrook, so did Jackson. And even Kendrick Perkins, who missed the previous 17 games, returned for this showdown.
The Spurs entered 0-3 against the Thunder this season. And although neither coach would admit it, Popovich wanted to get off the schneid and Scott Brooks wanted a sweep.
The Spurs came out of the gate looking every bit the team that hasn't lost in ages. San Antonio used an 11-0 run to turn a 6-5 deficit into a 16-6 lead. Tiago Splitter scored twice in the paint and Danny Green got loose for a couple of deep jumpers.
The Thunder's defense tightened, though, and Russell Westbrook got going. Westbrook scored seven in the first as the Thunder surged back to trail just 24-22 after one.
San Antonio got the lead back to seven on a Patty Mills 3-ball with 8:19 remaining in the second, but back came Oklahoma City once again. After missing a couple of open looks, Derek Fisher finally connected from deep to bring OKC within 40-36 at the 5:35 mark.
The Spurs got the lead up to eight on a Danny Green 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in the half, but the Thunder ended the half with a flurry. Westbrook drained a deep ball then streaked to the rim for a layup with just seconds left to bring OKC within 51-48 at the break.
Oklahoma City exploded on an 11-2 burst early in the third to take a 65-58 lead. The run was highlighted by an Andre Roberson corner 3-ball, a rare shot for the defensive-minded rookie. Roberson's 3 gave the Thunder a 57-56 lead and forced the Spurs into a timeout.
After two Tim Duncan free throws, Durant buried an 18-footer and Westbrook leaked out for a huge slam dunk to put OKC up 69-60 and trigger a standing ovation from the Chesapeake Arena crowd.
The Thunder outscored San Antonio 32-20 in the third to take a commanding lead, then extended it to as much as 16 in the fourth as they cruised to the 106-94 victory.
Durant extended his 25+ points streak to 39 games, one shy of Michael Jordan's NBA record. KD finished with 28 points and seven boards.
"They (fans) wanted it more than anybody," Brooks said about Durant reaching 25 points late in the game. "That's actually great to see, that made KD smile at the free throw line. It's a great streak, we're talking about one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball."
Durant expressed his gratitude toward the Thunder crowd after the game.
"That was a cool feeling," Durant said with a smile. "I don't want to take those moments for granted. It is not really what I am playing the game for, but it is still cool to see that support from such great fans no matter what. I really appreciate it. As a player, as a person, for people to be behind you like that, that's definitely a surreal feeling just to hear the crowd, it's a special moment."
Ibaka chipped in 11 points, 12 boards and three blocks, while Jackson's 14 points led the Thunder bench.
"I thought Serge was active," Brooks said. "Serge was really doing a good job of blocking and altering shots, protecting the paint."
Patty Mills' 21 points off the bench led San Antonio, while Duncan and Kawhi Leonard each added 17.
Perkins' return helped to solidify the Thunder's interior defense. Perkins mixed it up with Duncan on multiple occasions, drawing a double technical at one point.
"I loved the crowd's response, they appreciate what he does," Brooks said of Perkins. "We loves what he does, he impacts the game in so many ways that the stat sheet…you might as well not even look at it. He's a winner. He wins."
The win snaps San Antonio's 19-game winning streak, the sixth longest in NBA history. The Thunder improved to 4-0 against the Spurs this season and have issued San Antonio four of its 17 total losses.
"Just focus in more," Westbrook said of the Thunder's success against the Spurs. "Obviously when you play San Antonio you can't be lackadaisical. We've been doing a great job in the last few years just focusing in and being real particular on what we do on different players. We've gotten older, a lot more mature."
Jackson had missed the previous two games for OKC. Brooks said pregame that Westbrook and Perkins will not play Friday night in Houston.
The Thunder improved to 55-19 while San Antonio fell to 59-17.