Skip to content

Thunder-Spurs Game 5: Oklahoma City won like battle-tested veterans

Jun 5, 2012, 12:41 AM EDT

Kevin Durant, James Harden Getty Images

The conventional wisdom coming into this series was that the younger, less experienced Thunder might well not stand up to the level of play the battle tested Spurs were at.

But the Thunder have plenty of experience, too. We thought all season they were the team to beat in the West, that didn’t change until San Antonio got hot. The Thunder have been together for years, they have grown through the playoffs each year. They’ve become battle tested. They have added guys like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher who have have rings. Even in these playoffs we have seen them evolve.

The Thunder are ready. They showed it Monday night in Game 5.

San Antonio played the game of a desperate team — they altered the starting lineup that had so recently won 10 straight playoff games, they played with spurts of incredible tenacity. San Antonio wanted this.

Oklahoma City withstood the storms, made their plays, came back and went on to win 108-103 (Stephen Jackson‘s last shot three was waived off) and take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals. OKC can close it out Wednesday night at home and advance to the NBA finals.

There comes a time in every series where the coach who realizes it is really slipping away from him starts making desperate moves with his lineup. When he’s willing to try anything to find a combination that works, to change the pace. It almost never works.

For Game 5 Gregg Popovich inserted Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup. He early on tried small lineups. It worked for a minute and the Spurs were up 8 quickly.

But the Thunder are experienced, they do not rattle easily, even on the road. They responded with a 9-0 run of their own and took the lead back before the end of the first quarter. As it had the last couple games, the athleticism of the Thunder disrupted the Spurs offense. The Spurs were out of synch. Their decisions were slow, the ball movement not crisp. Do that and the long, athletic Thunder can recover and contest shots. San Antonio shot just 39.5 percent in the first half with 11 turnovers. Yet they were only down 8, 52-44 at the break.

The start of the second half was like the start of the first, Ginobili was knocking down everything — he finished with 34 points on 21 shots. Tony Paker was defending Russell Westbrook the length of the court and the Spurs were hot, and 18-4 run. They took the lead, they looked like the old Spurs.

And the Thunder weathered the storm. Like a veteran team. They retook the lead, just like they did in the first half. Their defense was good enough, their offense was too much for the Spurs to stop. Kevin Durant had 27 points, Westbrook 23, Harden 20 on just 11 shots (including the dagger four point play). As a team, the Thunder shot 50 percent.

They were flat out better.

Call it a passing of the torch if you want, but we knew all season OKC was the team to beat. And it’s not like the Spurs passed the torch — OKC has ripped it out of their hands. They cranked up the defensive pressure, their offensive ball movement has taken a leap forward, they have been stellar.

They have been what we expect of contenders. And now they are one win away from the finals. Which they earned.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Warriors, Draymond Green agree to five-year, $85 million deal

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game One Getty Images

    The Warriors are keeping the band together — and they will be at the top of the West for a while.

  2. 76ers get Nik Stauskas, first-rounder in salary-dump trade with Kings

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Philadelphia takes Jason Thompson, Carl Landry from Sacramento

  3. Report: Pelicans finalizing deal with Omer Asik

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Asik will take some pressure off Anthony Davis

  4. Reports: Paul Pierce agrees to three-year, $10 million contract with Los Angeles Clippers

    Jul 1, 2015, 7:34 PM EDT

    Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce and head coach Doc Rivers react during a break in fourth quarter action against the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff series in Miami Reuters

    Would Paul Pierce agree to this if DeAndre Jordan were leaving town?

  5. Reports: Paul Millsap agrees to re-sign with Hawks for three years, $59 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 7:07 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Three Getty Images

    Millsap had been flirting with Orlando but chose a shorter deal in Atlanta.

  6. Report: Iman Shumpert to meet with other teams as he struggles to reach deal with Cavaliers

    Jul 1, 2015, 6:31 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    He is using this to leverage the Cavaliers, but the door is open.

  7. Report: Thunder reach deal five-year, $25 million deal to keep Kyle Singler

    Jul 1, 2015, 6:07 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Getty Images

    This is a contract the Thunder can live with or move, depending.

  8. Report: Talks between Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors break down

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Getty Images

    Even if another team signs him to an offer sheet, the Warriors will just match it.

  9. Report: LaMarcus Aldridge rules out Lakers in free agent decision

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge

    Aldridge and Kobe Bryant didn’t quite click in their meeting.

  10. Report: Amir Johnson agrees to two-year, $24 million deal with Celtics

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT

    Amir Johnson Amir Johnson

    Boston gets nice value on a short-term frontcourt upgrade.

  11. Report: Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson near five-year, $80 million contract

    Jul 1, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT

    2015 NBA Finals - Game Six Getty Images

    The road to the NBA Finals out of the East — and maybe to the Larry O’Brien trophy itself — goes through Cleveland.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (4411)
  2. D. Wade (4176)
  3. L. James (3381)
  4. J. Embiid (3379)
  5. K. Bryant (2852)
  1. K. Love (2787)
  2. T. Harris (2732)
  3. J. Butler (2708)
  4. G. Monroe (2530)
  5. D. Cousins (2295)