If game one of the Western Conference Finals is a true sign of the rest of this series; than the match-up between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder will keep fans of the Association glued to their televisions for as long as it lasts. The two best teams in the West took to the floor of the AT&T Center Sunday night in a contest that saw the Spurs climb back from trailing by nine points at the start of the fourth quarter; as they scored more points in the last 12 minutes of action than they had in the previous two periods combined, topping the Thunder 101-98 to take a 1-0 advantage in their best of seven game series.
Once again San Antonio took advantage of their three core players and their bench boss Gregg Popovich experience; who had rebounded from far greater deficits over the years they have been together. The Spurs do not panic when thrust into those situations; instead they logically formulate a plan to get back into the contest. Manu Ginobili came off the bench to lead the attack, knocking down 11 of his team high 26 points in the fourth while Tony Parker added 18 points and Tim Duncan notched a double-double with 16 points in the victory.
Kevin Durant racked up a double-double for the visitors with a game high 27 points while James Harden had 19 points, Russell Westbrook scored 17 points and veteran Derek Fisher chipped in 13 points for the evening. Westbrook and Durant did not get enough support from the rest of their starters to be able to the home team’s attack in the fourth quarter; that will have to be remedied in order for the Thunder to compete in this series.
This contest went back and forth throughout the evening; with both teams having ample opportunities to take over the game but failing to do so. The two opponents were neck and neck for most of the opening period; however Ginobili would knock down the last seven points for his team including draining a 23 foot trey at the buzzer putting the Spurs on top 24-18.
The home team would keep the upper hand until late in the second when their guests tied up the contest. Fisher would put Oklahoma City on top as the game reached the half as he buried a three-point shot also 23-feet from the basket and the Thunder went into the locker room holding a razor-thin 47-46 edge.
The Thunder would remain in control during the third, however San Antonio would tighten the gap each time the visitors threatened to make some distance between the two teams. Momentum went in Oklahoma City’s favor during the closing moments of the period and they would lead 71-62 at the conclusion of the quarter. The Spurs would open the fourth on an 11-2 run grabbing the lead at 75-74 with 6:54 left to play as Parker knocked down a mid-range jumper. The home team would pull away by as many as ten points during the quarter; but the visitors were not going to give up without a fight. Harden ended the contest with two 25 foot bombs in the last three seconds of play cutting what would have been a nine-point loss to just three points and sending a message to their opponents that this series is just beginning.
The two teams will be back on the hardwood on Tuesday night in San Antonio for the second game of what looks to be a match-up that will live up to the pre-series hype.