The Oklahoma City Thunder climbed back in the Western Conference Finals with a 102-82 whipping of San Antonio inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday night.
As the Thunder extended their lead past 20 points in the second half, the crowd of 18,203 inside exploded, clapping along with noisemakers with every Kevin Durant jumper or Russell Westbrook layup as Oklahoma City pulled the series to 2-1 in favor of the Spurs and snapped San Antonio's 20-game winning streak.
The Spurs had not lost since April 11.
Before the game, the crowd was substantial as TNT's pregame show broadcast from in front of the arena. Charles Barkley rode to the set on a horse and was joined by Gov. Mary Fallin, who presented him with a set of cowboy boots.
But when the action started inside, there was no massive crowd gathered during the game along “Thunder Alley.”
A few people gathered around a television showing the game from the TNT set before it was dismantled early in the second half.
Angie Milligan and Debbie Knight, both of Oklahoma City, sat in lawn chairs in front of the screen that, through the first two rounds of the playoffs, broadcast the games inside to an ever-growing throng of fans.
The watch parties were canceled after a shooting in Bricktown after the Thunder's May 21 series clinching win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Eight people were shot in the incident.
Milligan said that shouldn't deprive Oklahoma City of the communal outdoor experience.
“There were people of all ages and backgrounds down here enjoying the games,” she said. “I think it's hurt a lot of low-income families that couldn't afford tickets but wanted to be part of it.”
Milligan sat next to several protest signs and handed out packets of information to passers-by, including one couple — Spurs fans — who drove from Houston without tickets after seeing the outdoor atmosphere on television.
Most of the people on the road — Reno Avenue directly in front of the arena — were police officers. There were an estimated 140 officers on duty in the area before, during and after the game, many more than were there when 6,000-plus gathered for the win over the Lakers.
Milligan and Knight said if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and the police departments in Norman and Stillwater could provide proper security for college football tailgating crowds, Oklahoma City could make Thunder Alley safe.
Inside, though, things were as close to flawless as possible for the Thunder.
They forced 21 San Antonio turnovers, turned those into 20 points and got big production on both ends (19 points, 6 steals) from Thabo Sefolosha, as he moved over to guard Tony Parker.
“Defensively that was as well as you can play against the best team in basketball and everybody did it throughout every possession,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Durant led the Thunder with 22 points, and Westbrook added 10 points and 9 assists.
Through three quarters, Oklahoma City had outscored San Antonio 14-1 on the fast break in building an 18-point lead.
“We knew what we had to do,” Durant said. “We're not going to lay down and roll over just because we were down 0-2. We were just going to keep fighting.”
The Thunder hosts Game 4 on Saturday night.