The San Antonio Spurs kept their winning-streak alive Sunday night with a narrow 101-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to open the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder took advantage of the Spurs plethora of turnovers in the early portion of the game to lead 71-62 entering the final frame of play, but San Antonio's defense and points in the paint helped them outscore OKC 39-27 down the stretch earning them the game one victory.
Manu Ginobili netted 26 points and Tony Parker added 18 for the Spurs who won their 19th game in a row, tying an NBA record for longest winning streak kept alive in the playoffs.
San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich harped at his team during a fourth quarter timeout calling for more ‘nasty' from his players--and that's exactly what he got.
Tiago Splitter nailed a layup followed by a jumper, then Gary Neal drove the lane to score down low and just like that the Spurs cut the nine point lead to just five points within the first 1:55 of play in the fourth.
San Antonio's execution and limited turnovers in the fourth were pivotal in helping the Spurs take back the lead. Parker buried a jumper from the top of the key with just under eight minutes remaining to knot the score at 72.
By the 5:30 mark, the Spurs had mounted a 14-3 run that despite their best efforts, OKC could not touch.
One of the biggest difference makers for San Antonio came in the paint as they outscored OKC 50-26 from inside the lane.
Despite 13 turnovers in the first half, the Spurs only gave up the ball three times in all of the second. That combined with their improved defensive power held OKC to just 16-of-37 shooting from the field in the second half.
It was all about Manu Ginobili for the Spurs in the first quarter as he helped San Antonio go on a 10-2 run over the last couple minutes to take the lead 24-18 by the end of the first frame.
The play of Derek Fisher and Nick Collison off the bench provided OKC with 6-0 run, just the spark they needed to get going.
For the first time in the postseason the Spurs trailed at halftime by a score of 47-46. At that point, OKC had already managed nine assists and seven blocks while forcing 13 San Antonio turnovers.
The Thunder's speed and defense was much too much for the Spurs in the third. OKC opened up the second half on a 5-1 run and held the Spurs to 6-of-24 from the field.
But down the stretch the Thunder's inability to get a defensive stop would be its biggest lost opportunity.
Kevin Durant led OKC with 27 points while James Harden added 19 despite only shooting 7-of-17 from the field. Russell Westbrook netted 17 and Fisher's strong performance off the bench helped him tally 14 points on the night.
The two teams will tangle again on Tuesday in game two. Tip off is set for 8:30 p.m.