Thunder lay down law in West
OKLAHOMA CITY — A loss to rival Oklahoma City cost the Spurs control of the race for home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs. However, that’s hardly the chief concern for San Antonio with the regular season winding down.
That All-Star point guard Tony Parker was sidelined yet again in a 100-88 loss to the Thunder on Thursday night looms even larger.
Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, Kevin Durant had 25 and Oklahoma City held off a series of San Antonio comebacks, the last one fizzling as Parker sat on the bench for the last 7 minutes with a shin injury.
“I’m not going to talk about all my stuff. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but I just have to get healthy,” said Parker, who was just working his way back into form after missing time with a sprained left ankle.
“It’s no excuse. I just have to get healthy.”
The Spurs lost for the third time in four games and relinquished of control of the race for the top seed in the West, despite still holding a half-game lead on Oklahoma City. The Thunder pulled even in the loss column and would own the tiebreaker if both teams won out because of a better record against the West.
“We’re a team that’s been through it. We went to the Finals and the Western Conference finals the last two years, so we know the importance of the playoffs,” Durant said. “It’s not like this is our first go-around. So, we know we want to play as many games as we can here in Oklahoma City.”
Derek Fisher hit a season-high five 3-pointers and had 17 points, his most since joining Oklahoma City in late February, while fueling a big first-half run that put the Thunder ahead to stay.
Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan each scored 24 points and had double-doubles for the Spurs. Parker had just two points in 25 minutes, and coach Gregg Popovich pulled him after noticing him limping.
“When he started out, it looked like he had no energy to start the game and then as he went, he looked to me like he was limping,” Popovich said. “And then (at the) start of the second half, we saw him coming across half-court actually limping one time, and that’s when we pulled him and I said to him, ‘Tony, you got to stop.’”
San Antonio was already playing without sixth man Manu Ginobili (hamstring), who could miss the rest of the regular season, and fellow reserve Stephen Jackson (ankle). Parker wasn’t sure whether he’d miss any time with his latest problem.
“We’ll see,” said Parker, who played 3 minutes in the fourth quarter. “I’ll just talk with the medical staff and talk with Pop and try to make the best decision and make sure I’m 100 percent and healthy for the playoffs because that’s the most important thing,”
The Thunder took control with a 26-5 surge that started midway through the first quarter, then fended off a series of comebacks as San Antonio tried to rally from 20 points behind in the first half and 14 down in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs got as close as 87-84 following Duncan’s layup with 5:54 to play, at the end of a 13-2 run that featured three baskets by Boris Diaw.
Westbrook hit two free throws on two of Oklahoma City’s next three possessions, and Durant’s 3-pointer from the top of the key provided some cushion at 94-86 with 3:17 left. The Spurs didn’t make a basket over the final 4½ minutes, getting only a pair of free throws from Leonard as he split on two trips to the line.
“Obviously, Tony’s down, Manu’s down, so it’s a concern, especially in this part of the season,” Duncan said. “But it’s part of the game, so we’ve got to play through it and we’ve got to find a way to score points and not go through droughts like we did tonight.”
The race for first in the West isn’t decided yet, with six games left for the Spurs (56-20) and seven to go for Oklahoma City (55-20). Even when they met in last year’s West finals, home-court advantage didn’t hold up. The Thunder won Game 5 in San Antonio while sweeping the final four games of a six-game series.
“We’ve got to keep playing. You win this one but drop one tomorrow, you’re right back where you were,” Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison said. “We have to continue to keep playing and try to win them all and see how it shakes out at the end.”
While San Antonio has had an NBA-high 13 different players start games and only had its top lineup for 30 games this season, Oklahoma City has had its preferred starting five in 72 of 75 games.
“They’ve had it a little easier than us health-wise and we’re still right in the mix. However many games are left, we’ll see how it plays out and hopefully we can see them again in the playoffs,” Duncan said.
Leonard had 14 rebounds and Duncan 11. Serge Ibaka had 11 points and 11 boards for Oklahoma City.
Fisher hit four 3-pointers during Oklahoma City’s big run, which included 13 straight points immediately after Duncan and Parker checked out for the first time. Durant’s transition drive pushed the edge to 41-21 with 7:57 left before halftime.
The Spurs started rallying back as soon as their two stars returned, with reserve Gary Neal scoring 12 points as the deficit dwindled to 52-44 by halftime. But Oklahoma City pushed the lead right back out to 67-48, only for San Antonio to score the final seven points of the third quarter to get within six.
“We just seemed to get right within striking distance and then not able to get over that hump,” Duncan said. “Credit to them obviously but we just weren’t on our game tonight.”
BULLS 92, NETS 90
NEW YORK — Carlos Boozer had 29 points and 18 rebounds, Nate Robinson made the go-ahead basket with 22 seconds left, and the Bulls overcame a 16-point deficit.
Jimmy Butler had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Luol Deng scored 18 points, and Robinson finished with 12 as the Bulls shook off the absences of five key players to keep Indiana from clinching the Central Division title they’ve won the last two years.
Deron Williams had 30 points and 10 assists for the Nets, who had a disappointing return home from an eight-game road trip. Brook Lopez finished with 28 points, but he had a turnover and two misses in the final minute, including a corner jumper that went in and out that would have forced overtime.
NUGGETS 95, MAVERICKS 94
DENVER — Corey Brewer scored 23 points and got a hand on Anthony Morrow’s last-second shot to preserve the Nuggets’ 19th straight home win.
Andre Iguodala’s layup with 2.8 seconds put Denver ahead in a game that Dallas dominated.
The win was bittersweet, though. Denver’s dreams of a deep playoff run might have taken a huge hit when they lost forward Danilo Gallinari to what looked like serious knee injury in the second quarter.
Gallinari is scheduled for an MRI on Friday, but if his screams of pain and the blank looks of his teammates after he went down with 4:27 left in the first half are any indication, the Nuggets will head into the playoffs without him.
Brandan Wright scored 16 points to lead Dallas.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.