How do you go from 20 straight wins to three straight losses? You have to go up against a blood-thirsty team coming of age at just the right moment, a group being led by three of the coldest killers in the world. We were surprised OKC went in to San Antonio and stole Game 5 last night 108-103, and if we were surprised, the Spurs must’ve been downright shocked. Kevin Durant (27 points) hit the game-clinching free throws, James Harden (20 points, 12 in the fourth) hit the two most important triples and Russell Westbrook (23 points, 12 dimes) got the better of Tony Parker. Once Manu Ginobili (season-high 34 points) missed a three in the closing seconds, it was all she wrote, setting up what’s going to be one of the craziest NBA scenes ever in Game 6 in OKC (they might literally tear the roof off) … With less than a minute to go, OKC nursing a two-point lead and a Thunder possession quickly falling apart, James Harden hit an awkward three-pointer where the only possible thing that could’ve made it better were if he did the Sam Cassell Big Balls Dance. In fact in the fourth quarter, the Thunder countered every punch from the old reliables. One particular back-and-forth nearly capped it with about five minutes left. First, Westbrook got into the lane, didn’t force anything (he’s gotten so much better at this) and hit Serge Ibaka, who then drilled a 20-footer. On the other end, Ibaka pinned Parker’s (20 points) shot against the glass, which led to a fast-break. James Harden finished it off with a four-point play to push the lead to 13. However, right after that, the Spurs reeled off 11 consecutive points in part because Westbrook reverted to using his tunnel vision glasses … Barely nine minutes into the game, San Antonio already had six turnovers, a few of them directly leading to Thunder buckets during a quick 9-0 run by the visitors (it eventually was extended to an 18-6 burst to end the quarter). The Spurs better start cleaning up their act soon. Right now, all they’re doing – as Tony Parker so eloquently did during one slow-mo replay in the first quarter – is getting ripped and then transitioning into epic, The Sandlot-level belly flops … The Spurs were all over the place in the first half (at one point missing 11 straight shots), and while Ol’ Pop has spent parts of this series giving Scott Brooks a crash course in “Winning Basketball 101,” he was throwing some really random lineups out there in the first half. We weren’t sure where they were going with all this but no one was thrown off worse than Tony Parker. He was a -12, and we’re also taking points away because of all of his awful flopping. Then to top it off on the half’s final play, Russell Westbrook literally dribbled the ball off his face … Throughout the first half – and this is something that originally came to fruition out in OKC over the weekend – it felt like the Thunder finally figured it out… that it’s not just about some tag-team relay race where they can take turns handling the baton, but that when you get deep into the playoffs, it’s about getting “the others” to contribute something. Anything. Then at the end, you can just go to Durant and he can get his Trevor Hoffman on … Keep reading to hear about Manu Ginobili’s incredible third quarter …
So naturally, after Popovich probably gave them a tongue lashing, San Antonio almost immediately came out with more energy after the break. Even Boris Diaw was moving with a little pizzazz. Less than five minutes in, and the Spurs had the lead after two Manu Ginobili triples (with another Parker flop thrown in the middle) capped a 18-4 dash. Ginobili went absolutely crazy, and after about his fourth or five incredible deep jumper, it started to dawn on us that he was putting together the best second half since Thomas Sheppard. Step-back triples, shots in the lane, a few minutes without a whip-lashing flop, we loved every second of it. You had to know one of San Antonio’s big three was going to step up and take control, and it might’ve gone on longer had Westbrook not detonated on a fast break alley-oop, and had Gary Neal not decided to take another Melo Center special (he had three or four of them on the night that made you wonder whether his body would mysteriously show up this morning in the San Antonio River). Need any more evidence that OKC is growing up? They ate that burst and spit back out a 20-5 run – highlighted by KD’s buzzer-beater – to go into the fourth quarter having actually WON the third … Man, we would’ve hated to be the refs in San Antonio last night. Throughout the first half, it felt like David Stern had decided to just throw them out into a gladiator pit, lined it with angry Durantulas, and then filled the stands with ornery, and blood-thirsty Spurs fans. During the second quarter, the crowd wasn’t even cheering on San Antonio; they were screaming for someone to violently take out the refs … Somewhat off topic, but we tried out SportsYapper for the game last night. It’s a free iPhone and Android app that works a little like both Twitter and an online forum. You can go into different threads and follow conversations on strictly one topic (in this instance Spurs/Thunder), replying back and forth with other fans. Pretty dope, especially considering how streamlined it is. No hash tags necessary either. You should definitely give it a shot … And yesterday, adidas announced the participants for their 10th annual adidas Eurocamp, which will be held in Treviso, Italy on June 10-12. The camp brings together the best international talent with former/current coaches and players from the NBA. The biggest names who will be there are Evan Fournier and Tomas Satoransky, possible first-round picks this summer … We’re out like San Antonio’s home invincibility.
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