The San Antonio Spurs rebounded nicely to make out with a late 100-96 road victory Friday night to claim a 2-1 series lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Coming off a disappointing finish in game two, where it appeared as though their were several missed calls in the final thirteen seconds of the game. The Spurs timely play-making and staunch defense helped them overcome the onslaught from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Game two had to be painful for the Spurs as they dropped a home game for only the second time all season after having gone 40-1 at home in the regular season. Following that disappointing result the referees put out a statement after game two that read as follows: “On the floor, we did not see a foul on the play,” Mauer said. “However, upon review we realize and we agree that we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It’s a play that we have never seen before, ever, but we feel we should have had an offensive foul on Waiters.” The Spurs coaching staff and players alike shrugged off the error and noted that they had plenty of opportunities throughout the game. They turned things around Friday night and as always, it began on the defensive side of the ball.
Westbrook finished with 31 points on 10-31 shooting from the floor and the Thunder as a team shot 42% from the floor and a lowly 33% from behind the arc for the game. Kawhi Leonard finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds on 9-17 shooting from the floor and LaMarcus Aldridge added 24 points and eight rebounds to lead the Spurs once again. Leonard’s critical offensive rebound of LaMarcus Aldridge’s miss led to two free throws with 18 seconds left that put the Spurs ahead by four. The rebound serves as a stark contrast to Monday’s loss to the Thunder at home, the Spurs couldn’t come up with the ball in a scramble near their basket in the closing seconds, and the Thunder escaped with a 98-97 win. On Friday, Leonard’s rebound helped seal the victory and ensure San Antonio’s lead in the series.
The Spurs ran out to a 35-20 lead after a 3-pointer by David West, but the Thunder responded with a 9-2 run to creep back into the game. San Antonio led 47-42 at halftime, soon after making 7 of 11 three-pointers while Westbrook made just 6 of 17 shots before the break and struggled to find the same stroke he had in game two. He was suffocated all-night by the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the latter of which either blocked or altered his shot on several trips to the basket.
The Spurs opened the second half on a 7-2 run to force a Thunder timeout, but Oklahoma City, behind 10 points from Durant in the quarter, cut San Antonio’s lead to 72-69 heading into the fourth. The Thunder would maintain their momentum off back-to-back threes by Ibaka and Westbrook, giving the Thunder an 81-77 lead with just over seven minutes left in the game. San Antonio regained a 91-89 lead when Westbrook and Durant turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions. West’s scored on a close bucket that helped push the Spurs ahead 96-89 with 1:19 left to play. The Thunder then trimmed San Antonio’s lead to 98-96 on a floater by Dion Waiters with 4.8 seconds remaining, but Leonard made two free throws with 2.7 seconds left to put the game out of reach after grabbing the crucial rebound off a LaMarcus Aldridge miss.
The Spurs now find themselves with the advantage of playing game four on Sunday with a possibility to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Regardless, faced with the prospect of now having to win a second game in San Antonio to win the series, the Thunder face heavy pressure to come away with a victory in game four Sunday night or else face a potential close-out game in San Antonio.