Game 5: Oklahoma City at San Antonio
Simply put, this was one of the greatest playoff games of my adult life. I’m sure I’ll tell my kid about it, if I ever have a kid. There is no adjective available to adequately sum up how incredible this game was—even incredible doesn’t do it justice.
As I was watching the game with two friends (and huge NBA fans)—one of whom had placed a not inconsiderable wager on the Spurs to cover the 5 point spread on this game—I turned towards them during the 3rd quarter, and said
“We’re watching a switch of dynasties. It’s the changing of the guard out West and it’s incredible.”
My buddies, perhaps distracted by the plume of sativa smoke hovering in the air, ignored the slightly melodramatic comment and kept screaming for Manu to shoot a 3. Later, after Serge ee-blocked-a Manu on the backboard, and the Thunder went the other way where James Harden hit a huge 3 (not his last) while Manu—coming late to the play—added a foul to create a 4-point play and 6-point swing, one of my buddies turned to me and said: “It’s the changing of the guard.” I laughed and agreed before letting him know I’d said it a while back (don’t do drugs kids!).
My point is, this really was one of those moments where you could see a watershed in the NBA’s hierarchy: the Spurs’ dominance transferring into the Thunder’s attempt at the same type of dominance. A win on the road is just the thing to spur (forgive the pun) a team on to a title. Lets go through it all in an incredible game 5 that we all knew was coming.
The Thunder came out and won the 1st quarter with some help from Nick Collison and their role players. The Spurs started hot, going up 15-8 before the Thunder went on a 18-6 run to close out the first quarter with the lead 26-21. Their lead would grow.
In the second quarter, little used shooter, Daequan Cook, hit 2 big treys and a long 2-pointer to add 8 big points off the bench in just a 2 minute span. About the only player shooting well for San Antonio was Manu Ginobili who was attacking the rim and shooting well.
Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka (still shooting lights out) brought the Thunder into the half with a 52-44 lead.
To start the 3rd quarter, the Spurs held the Thunder scoreless until 9:38 when Durant hit a long jumper. By that point the Spurs had cut the Thunder lead to 54-50. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were not letting the Thunder come into their house and blow them out.
All of a sudden Manu just went off. WENT OFF! Down 2 with 7:43 remaining in the 3rd, Manu hit back-to-back 3’s to put the Spurs up 60-56.
The Thunder and Spurs traded baskets and free throws before again Manu hit a driving runner and another 3. “RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT,” seemed like it was written for Manu.
The Spurs were in control; all was right with the world. Except, it wouldn’t last. A guy named Kevin Durant started to take over. He matched Manu’s 3 with a 3 of his own and instead of settling for more long jumpers, took it to the hole for a remarkably easy lay-in on the next possession to cut the Spurs lead to 1.
The Spurs were getting shut down by the Thunder’s snippily enthusiastic defense. A couple Westbrook free throws, one lay-in and the a steal by Durant led to this oop to Russ and a Westbrook scream that could be heard from space.
Durant, not content to just get a small lead, decided to end the 3rd quarter with an impossible to guard turn-around from just inside the 3-point line as time expired. It gave the Thunder a 9-point lead going into the 4th. The Thunder had survived the Spurs’ first comeback attempt.
All told in the 3rd period, Durant was 6/7 from the field for 13 points. Can you say: “I’m the fuckin’ mang” again? The fuckin’ ALPHA man? To start the 4th, Durant came right back and drained a wing 3 to push the Thunder lead to 12 with 11:30 to play.
But this is a San Antonio team that’s been there, done that. They don’t just roll-over, even when the tides of history are on their beach-head. They didn’t give a fuck that Durant was in his zone yet again. They’re the Spurs, and no one strolls into their stadium and gets a playoff win without a fight.
Tony Parker hit a lay-up in the lane, and after a miss by Russ, Manu followed that up with yet another 3 (he would finish 11/21 from the floor for a game-high 34 points in a starting role—yes, Popovich smartly started him in place of the struggling Danny Green).
The Spurs would not die, but right then Harden hit another dagger 3 and the lead was 10 again, 87-77 with 10:27 to play. Still it wasn’t enough to get the Spurs to lay down. Parker hit a reverse lay-up and Stephen Jackson hit a couple 3-pointers and the Spurs kept the deficit to a manageable 10.
After the Serge Ibaka block and subsequent Harden 4-point play that elicited my friend to mirror my “changing of the guard” comment from above, Timmy Duncan went to work. He and Parker ran the elbow screen and roll to perfection a couple times, and Popovich kept feeding the ball to the big fella as he kept coming through in the clutch.
After Russ hit a huge 17-footer to make it 103-99 OKC with 1:30 to play, both teams missed shots and there was under a minute to play as San Antonio got the ball. They again went to the big fella. He backed Ibaka down with inside a minute to play and bulled his way to a score.
Vintage Duncan dominance as I continued to yell his name and thank the heavens for yet another incredible game. The Thunder were ahead by only 2 points with 50 seconds to play.
So what do they do? They clear out for James Harden? Actually, after the game Harden said the play was originally for Durant, but with the shot clock winding down he couldn’t find him. At one point in that last Thunder possession, Manu came over from the wing to try and trap Harden who had briefly turned his back. But Harden spun around, and Manu went back to guard Thabo.
It ended up not mattering that the play broke down because James Harden has brass balls (and he’s now in the running with Sam Cassell and Chauncey Billups for the biggest playoff testicles by a guard—Big Shot Bob has them for front court players).
With around 7 seconds on the shot clock, 31 seconds left in the game and a tenuous 2-point lead against the almighty Spurs, Harden jabbed at poor Kawhi Leonard with his left foot, got the subsequent room he needed, and drained the final death blow (for now) to the Spurs.
Even with a 5-point deficit and only 28 seconds on the clock, the Spurs weren’t done. Manu got a lightening quick lay-up to cut it to 3, and on the ensuing in-bounds, the Spurs trapped. They trapped like their playoff lives depended on it— and it did! Their trap forced Thabo Sefolosha to inadvertantly lose the ball out of bounds.
So with 15 seconds still on the clock, it was Spurs ball down 3. I’m sure there will be pundits and writers who claim Popovich should have gone for the quick 2 again and kept extending the game, but instead they elected to go with a high two-man game with Manu and Timmy. Manu got open on a Timmy screen, but his 3 was a bit rushed, and it ended up brushing against the front of the rim before going out of bounds. Thunder ball, and a game 5 victory I won’t ever forget. All Timmy could do was watch and ponder what could have been.
The Thunder are headed back to Oklahoma City with only one game remaining in their quest to get to their first NBA Finals. First, they’ll have to get through a Spurs team that doesn’t ever quit.
I’m exhausted in that happy way you get after you’ve been through a lot of craziness. I can only guess at how the Thunder feel. I hope I can survive game 6. So does San Antonio, and you know Oklahoma City doesn’t want anything to do with a game 7 in San Antonio again.
Are you freaking out as much as I am?
Final: Oklahoma City Thunder 108 - SAN ANTONIO SPURS 103
The Thunder lead the series 3-2