Thunder plays big in crunch time to post big win
A young Thunder squad found ways to lose a ton of close games last season. While it’s only 18 days into the season, you can see a new level of maturity this season, the primary reason Oklahoma City is 5-4.
A 101-98 win over the veteran San Antonio Spurs Saturday night was more than just your normal win. A young team is showing signs of making the type of late-game plays that so many times make the difference in the NBA.
Bottom line it was the Thunder, the second youngest team in the league, that came up big in crunch time more often than the veteran Spurs who have won three NBA titles this decade.
After dominating the third quarter to take the lead, pushing it to 83-74 early in fourth quarter, the Spurs twice got to within one point but could never regain the lead.
The final two minutes had a lengthy list of critical plays.
* Nenad Krstic’s block of George Hill’s point-blank shot with just over two minutes left was huge, protecting a 93-90 lead.
* When the Thunder led 94-91 with 1:18 left, Kevin Durant missed what would have been a huge basket. OKC, though, maintained the possession when Krstic came up with an offensive rebound that several players had a shot at grabbing.
With an extra shot on the possesion, Russell Westbrook hit the game’s biggest basket — a running, scoop shot in the lane, the highlight on a night the second-year point guard from UCLA was sensational (19 points, 11 assists, 0 turnovers).
Westbrook’s basket gave the Thunder a 96-91 lead. On the Spurs next possession Tony Parker stepped on the base line, an uncommon mistake for the veteran.
But the game was far from over as the Thunder was far from flawless closing out the win.
Thabo Sefolosha hit only one of two free throws with :31.9 seconds left.
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