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The Thunder could be about to turn the NBA playoffs upside down

Spurs on the brink of exit as Westbrook and co take a 3-2 series lead back to Oklahoma.
May 11th 2016, 11:27 AM 4,616 3

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THE SAN ANTONIO Spurs, the only team within touching distance of the imperious Golden State Warriors during the regular season, are one game away from an early playoff exit.

Russell Westbrook scored 35 points last night as the Oklahoma City Thunder fought back to stun the Spurs 95-91 and take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Oklahoma City had trailed by as much as 13 points at one point as the Spurs looked to seize the initiative in front of their home crowd at the AT&T Center.

But a scintillating fourth-quarter fightback transformed the contest and means the Thunder can clinch a series victory in Thursday’s Game 6 and set up a conference final against Golden State or the Portland Trail Blazers.

Thunder Spurs Basketball Westbrook drives to the basket: Thunder star finished with 35 points. Source: Eric Gay

San Antonio appeared to be headed for victory after Kawhi Leonard punished a sloppy Thunder pass to put the Spurs 88-82 ahead with just over four minutes remaining.

However, Leonard’s basket became the cue for an eight-point run from Oklahoma City, who edged clear of their rivals.

Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter played a key role, hitting a layup and then blocking the Spurs’ Tim Duncan before running the length of the court to collect from Westbrook to hit another layup that put the Thunder up 90-88.

San Antonio’s Tony Parker tied the game with a jump shot to make it 90-90, but two free throws from Kevin Durant restored Oklahoma City’s two-point lead at 92-90.

Parker could have tied but instead missed one of two free throws to make it 92-91. The French star then missed a jumper with just over nine seconds remaining.

Westbrook gathered and converted a layup while being fouled before adding a free throw with 6.3 seconds on the clock to effectively clinch the win.

Westbrook only narrowly missed out on yet another triple-double, finishing with 11 rebounds and nine assists in addition to his 35-point haul.

“We got stops and Russ was a maniac tonight,” Durant said afterward. “We didn’t panic late in the game — it was a good win for us.”

“We did a good job of making them shoot mid-range shots and keeping them out of the paint,” he added. “We just kept fighting.”

© – AFP 2016

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