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Spurs get ‘nasty’ to take 1-0 lead over Thunder

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"It just happened," Ginobili said. "I don’t know how exactly because I haven’t scored like this all season long, but it happened and I am very happy about it."

On the other end, Oklahoma City’s own Big Three struggled to find its shot early before awakening in the second half. Durant, Westbrook and James Harden at one point through the second quarter were 5 of 21 — a typically ominous stat line for a trio that had been responsible for nearly 70 percent of Oklahoma City’s points through the playoffs so far.

At a glance



Durant 8-19 11-12 27, Ibaka 1-3 3-3 5, Perkins 1-4 3-4 5, Westbrook 7-21 1-2 17, Sefolosha 3-7 0-0 7, Harden 7-17 0-0 19, Collison 2-3 1-2 5, Fisher 6-8 0-0 13, Cook 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 35-83 19-23 98.


Leonard 3-9 0-0 7, Duncan 6-15 4-6 16, Diaw 4-6 0-0 8, Parker 6-15 5-7 18, Green 0-6 0-0 0, Ginobili 9-14 5-5 26, Bonner 0-2 0-0 0, Neal 5-9 0-0 12, Splitter 4-5 1-5 9, S.Jackson 1-2 2-2 5. Totals 38-83 17-25 101.

Oklahoma City 18  29  24  27—  98

San Antonio 24  22  16  39—101

3-Point Goals—Oklahoma City 9-23 (Harden 5-9, Westbrook 2-3, Fisher 1-3, Sefolosha 1-3, Cook 0-1, Durant 0-4), San Antonio 8-24 (Ginobili 3-5, Neal 2-4, S.Jackson 1-2, Parker 1-2, Leonard 1-3, Diaw 0-1, Bonner 0-2, Green 0-5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Oklahoma City 48 (Durant 10), San Antonio 57 (Duncan 11). Assists—Oklahoma City 18 (Westbrook 5), San Antonio 22 (Parker 6). Total Fouls—Oklahoma City 24, San Antonio 18. A—18,581 (18,797).

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The Thunder were ousted in the Western Conference finals a year ago and were in position for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs until being overtaken by the Spurs in the final month of the season. But it was a fittingly close opener for two franchises with so many similarities.

That includes Thunder general manager Sam Presti — the architect of the Thunder’s rapid turnaround from a 23-win season to consecutive Western Conference finals in just four years — getting his big break in the NBA as an intern in San Antonio.

And the Thunder didn’t even need their own Big Three to keep things close.

They leaned on none more so than Fisher, whose famous game-winner for the Lakers on this same court in the 2004 playoffs has made "0.4 seconds" a phrase that needs no further explanation to the Spurs. Eight years later, and the oldest player in this series at 37, Fisher already met his playoff average at halftime and finished with 13 points.

Gary Neal added 12 points and was the only other Spurs player in double figures.

Harden lost in the first round of his matchup with Ginobili, who’s also a lefty and a former Sixth Man of the Year winner. Harden finished with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting but started by missing nine of his first dozen shots.

Tipping off another conference finals couldn’t happen soon enough for Oklahoma City. With nothing to do but prepare for the Spurs all week — and be asked about the Spurs — the Thunder grew weary of questions about being perceived underdogs. About not having the same championship pedigree. About how they’ll possibly stop a team rolling through one of the 10 longest winning streaks in NBA history.

So repetitive were the questions that Durant, visibly annoyed, suggested earlier this week that someone instead ask how the Thunder are going "to come at" the Spurs. That didn’t stop Oklahoma City from facing more of the same at shootaround Sunday morning, when Thunder coach Scott Brooks tried quashing again the idea his team was somehow intimidated.

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"They’re not going to be in awe. They’re going to have respect for them," Brooks said. "We know we can beat them."

They’ve still got to prove it.

Notes: Spurs C DeJuan Blair has given the Thunder fits in his three NBA seasons, including 22 points on them in a March win. But San Antonio’s starting center for practically the entire season didn’t play for the third consecutive playoff game. "The game will tell us what’s appropriate and what’s not," Popovich said before tipoff. ...Just because a Boston-Oklahoma City matchup in still possible in the NBA finals doesn’t mean center Kendrick Perkins is hopeful about facing his old team. "I really don’t care," Perkins said of the Celtics advancing. ...Gov. Rick Perry took in his first Spurs game this year, sitting courtside next to Spurs owner Peter Holt, a major donor to the former Republican presidential candidate.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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