With Reggie Jackson out after an early injury, Thunder coach Scott Brooks went with Jeremy Lamb in his place.
Lamb, who struggled defensively guarding Manu Ginobili in Game 3, performed much better overall in Game 4.
Lamb quickly picked off a Danny Green pass and turned it into two free throws on the other end, then had a steal on Boris Diaw a few possessions later as the Thunder steadily chipped away at San Antonio’s early lead.
While Lamb was on the floor in the first half, the Thunder outscored San Antonio by 17.
The Thunder was minus-7 with Lamb on the floor in its Game 3 win.
“He has to keep playing with a lot of confidence and give us energy and make an impact on both ends,” Brooks said. “We expect two-way players, and we have to focus on that. I think he was solid tonight.”
SPURS BENCH CLOSES THE GAP AGAIN
For the second consecutive game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich emptied his bench relatively early with the Thunder well in control.
And for the second time, the Spurs bench — led by Cory Joseph, Jeff Ayres and Matt Bonner —helped close the gap late.
Tuesday, the Thunder were down 19 with 5:40 remaining and the lead went down to 12. In Game 3, Oklahoma City led by 20 with four minutes left and won by nine.
Ginobili said there were lessons to be learned from their performance.
“That ball movement helps,” Ginobili said. “If we are going to play against them five-on-five every time, their athleticism and their strength and size is hard to overcome so we’ve got to try to speed up the game a little bit, get them moving more. So it was good to see them perform like that and be so aggressive and create so much movement. They played really well.”
Popovich said he didn’t consider re-inserting his starters late.
“Thursday,” Popovich answered when asked why not, referring to Game 5 in San Antonio.
OKC BOMB SQUAD CHECKS PACKAGE
Not long after the end of Tuesday’s game, the Oklahoma City Police Department’s bomb squad was sent to check out a suspicious package in the concourse between the Cox Convention Center and the Renaissance Hotel not far from Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Fans exiting the arena were directed away from the area and a few minutes later, the all-clear was issued.
CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY
Late in the first quarter, San Antonio’s Patty Mills drove between Derek Fisher and Kevin Durant.
The ensuing foul was initially credited to Fisher by referee Joey Crawford, though quickly changed to Lamb, who was nowhere near the play.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and star Tim Duncan pleaded with Crawford that the foul was on Durant.
A few minutes later, with 9:18 remaining in the second quarter, officials reviewed the foul call and changed the foul to Durant.
ADAMS SOLID AGAIN
Rookie center Steven Adams wasn’t needed quite as quickly Tuesday as starter Kendrick Perkins avoided foul trouble early.
But Adams made an impression after entering late in the first quarter.
A little more than a minute after Adams came into the game, Westbrook drove the lane, looked to take a step-back jumper before passing it to Adams for a nifty hook shot near the basket.
Adams played nearly 26 minutes — more than three minutes than Perkins — and had six rebounds and four points.
DURANT PASSES KJ, KIDD
With yet another big scoring night, Durant moved into the top 50 in NBA history in playoff scoring.
Durant’s 31 points puts him at 2,053 career playoff points, 27 more than Kevin Johnson and 10 more than Jason Kidd for 50th place.
Durant is five behind Hall of Famer Tom Heinsohn for 49th place.
Thunder guard Fisher is No. 44 on the list.
After not playing in Game 3, Nick Collison sat out most of Game 4 as well before entering in the final minute of the third quarter to a large applause.
Collison played nearly 30 minutes in the first two games of the series before Serge Ibaka’s return kept him on the bench in the return to Oklahoma City.
Collison played in just less than five minutes.
Perry Jones entered the game late and hit a long jumper in the final minute.
For the second consecutive game, Thabo Sefolosha did not play. Sefolosha was removed from the starting lineup for Game 3 as Brooks opted to start Reggie Jackson.
After Ibaka slammed home a putback of a Durant miss in the final minute of the first half, Popovich quickly was called for a technical foul arguing for a travel call on Durant. ...In the second quarter, Ginobili passed Bill Russell for most playoff points by a left-handed scorer. ...The Thunder outscored the Spurs 21-0 on fast breaks and have outscored San Antonio 57-30 on fast breaks in the series.