TONY PARKER SCORED 34 points and the San Antonio Spurs stretched their win streak to 20 games on Tuesday, defeating Oklahoma City 120-111 to seize command of their NBA playoff series.
The Spurs took a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference final and moved halfway toward booking a place against the Eastern Conference winner, either the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics, in next month’s NBA Finals.
Oklahoma City will host games three and four against the Spurs on Thursday and Saturday. In NBA history, teams that fall behind 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have recovered to advance less than six percent of the time.
The Spurs, who last lost 48 days ago on April 11 at home to the Los Angeles Lakers, won their final 10 regular-season games and have won their first 10 playoff games.
“It’s a good run but we’re only worried about getting these next two in a row,” Spurs star Tim Duncan said. “That would be 22 wins. That would be great.”
San Antonio’s streak has broken the NBA record for a combined win streak in playoff and regular-season games, beating the old combined mark of 19 wins in a row by the 2001 Lakers.
French guard Parker hit 16 of 21 shots and contributed eight assists for the Spurs, who have lost only twice in their past 33 games.
“Tony has been great all year,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was excellent. He played a fantastic game in a lot of ways.”
Argentine playmaker Manu Ginobili scored 20 points and Kawhi Leonard added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who also had 11 points and 12 rebounds from Duncan as they challenge for a fifth NBA crown in 14 seasons.
Kevin Durant scored 31 points to lead the Thunder while James Harden added 30 and Russell Westbrook contributed 27 in a losing cause.
“If we play hard and play well, we are able to beat this team,” Thunder veteran Derek Fisher said. “We have to continue to be physical on the defensive end. We’re doing a great job at times but it can’t just be ‘at times’.
“We’ve put ourselves in this position where we have to go home and win game three and get back in this series.”
The Thunder trimmed a 22-point Spurs lead to only 99-93 with 5min 25sec remaining before the Spurs found their shooting touch to finish off the victory, but not before Popovich screamed at Parker to regain his focus.
“We were playing sloppy and OKC came back on us,” Parker said. “He wanted to make sure I stay in place so we didn’t let them come back.
“They messed up our rhythm a little bit. We came out flat in the fourth quarter but we came back at the end to win it. They are a very tough team. They won’t quit. We can’t stop playing.”
Only three other teams in NBA history have won 20 or more in a row, all of those runs coming exclusively in regular-season games.
The Lakers set the NBA record with a 33-game win streak in 1971-72 while the Houston Rockets ran off 22 in a row in 2008 and the Milwaukee Bucks won 20 in a row in 1971.
The Spurs, who never trailed, hit 54 percent of their shots from the field to only 21 percent by the Thunder.
“They were making shots. They were spraying them from all over the floor,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Ginobili made a lot of tough shots. Parker was on fire.”
The Spurs, leading 55-44 at half-time, made their first five shots of the second half for a 68-52 advantage and ran the margin as large as 80-58 before the Thunder went on an 8-0 spurt, serving notice the visitors had not given up.
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“We just can’t get down by that many points,” Harden said. “We were a little more aggressive. We just have to play hard every possession. We just have to change things up and come back more desperate in game three.”
San Antonio held off Oklahoma City, taking a 92-76 edge into the fourth quarter, but the Thunder opened the last period with a 13-5 run sparked by pressuring defense that caused the Spurs to miss 12 of 15 shots in a key span.
“We got down 22 points. That’s not good,” Brooks said. “But we still came back and fought.”
Oklahoma City pulled within six with 5:25 remaining but San Antonio scored eight of the next 11 points, Parker capping the run with a jumper for a 107-96 Spurs lead with 3:39 remaining.
Fisher sank a three-pointer and Durant slammed down a fast-break dunk to pull Oklahoma City within 112-105.
But Ginobili hit a three-pointer and Parker answered a Westbrook driving layup with one of his own for a 117-107 Spurs lead with only 33 seconds remaining.
“We were able to hold on and make enough plays down the stretch and it was a good win,” Duncan said.
- © AFP, 2012