Spurs-Thunder Game 1: San Antonio defeats Oklahoma City, 101-98 - latimes.com Spurs survive stretch run to win Game 1 over Thunder
The more-experienced San Antonio keeps its composure to pull out a 101-98 victory to open the Western Conference finals.
By Ben Bolch
SAN ANTONIO -- It's hard to outdo an original.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have long modeled themselves after the San Antonio Spurs, mimicking their more established rival down to the classy aura surrounding the small-market franchise.
The Thunder still have some catching up to do in the poise department after the opener of the Western Conference finals.
Just like Oklahoma City's Bricktown Canal is a poor replica of San Antonio's Riverwalk, the Thunder couldn't match the composure of their counterparts during the final minutes of the Spurs' come-from-behind 101-98 victory Sunday night at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio wiped out a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter, getting contributions from their star trio as well as a few players of lesser stature. Manu Ginobili had 26 points and an emphatic fist pump after a clutch layup and Tony Parker finished with 18 points for San Antonio, which remained unbeaten in the postseason and extended its overall winning streak to 19 games.
Meanwhile, the Thunder dissipated, with point guard James Harden twice committing charging fouls in the fourth quarter and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook also each getting called for a late offensive foul.
Not even Durant's 27 points or the unexpected contributions of Derek Fisher, the reserve guard who made his first six shots and collected 13 points on a the court where he has long haunted the Spurs, could save the Thunder.
Harden (19 points) and Westbrook (17) both struggled with their shooting touch, combining to make 14 of 38 shots.
Oklahoma City still appeared on the way to victory early in the fourth quarter. Harden got the bounce on a jumper, giving the Thunder a 73-64 lead and quieting the crowd.
But Spurs reserve center Tiago Splitter helped his team rally by scoring five points and taking a charge on Harden. Back-to-back jumpers by Gary Neal and Parker pulled San Antonio into a 73-73 tie, and Parker put the Spurs ahead to stay shortly thereafter on a floating one-handed jumper.
Heading into the series, there were plenty of similarities between the franchises that held the top two spots in the conference standings.
Both parlayed high draft picks into the sensations that are Durant and Tim Duncan. Both have star trios who captivated their respective small markets, including left-handed sixth men who would likely be in the starting lineup of almost any other NBA team.
The common threads even extend to the silk ties worn in the front office.
Sam Presti rose from video coordinator to assistant general manager with the Spurs before becoming general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007, a year before they relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.
Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that the teams' rosters share similar blueprints.
Their cores were built exclusively through the draft, with the Thunder's Durant, Westbrook and Harden all first-round picks in successive years. San Antonio's Duncan, Ginobili and Parker were also products of shrewd draft selection, particularly the late second-round plucking of Ginobili.
The Spurs were still feeling plenty good about their aging trio Sunday.