SAN ANTONIO — For the first three quarters Sunday night, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn't like what he saw in a team that hadn't lost since April 11.
"I thought we were playing for most of the first half, and even at the beginning of the third quarter, a bit unconfidently, kind of on our heels, a little bit unsure of ourselves, on the dribble too much …," Popovich said of trailing 71-62 going into the fourth quarter of Game 1 in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder.
So during a television timeout, Popovich implored his team to become more aggressive.
"I want some nasty," Popovich shouted.
On cue, the Spurs got nasty and things quickly turned ugly for OKC as San Antonio erupted for 39 points in the final period to post a 101-98 victory before a sellout crowd of 18,581 at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs have now won 19 straight overall, 30 of their last 32 and nine straight in the playoffs.
Pop's motivational ploy paid off as the Spurs shot 12 for 16 (.750) from the field and 13 for 18 (.722) from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
"He just wanted to make sure we played with a lot more energy," Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who had seven points, four rebounds and three assists in the period. "When he says that, he just wants to make sure we matched the passion and the energy that Oklahoma was playing with. They were playing with a lot more energy than us in the third quarter."
The Thunder cooperated by getting outscored 20-5 at the outset of the final period, shooting 2 for 8 from the field while San Antonio was in the process of converted 10 of its first 12 shots. "We got in a funk where we were not moving the ball and getting any good shots," reserve forward Nick Collison said.
More impressively, San Antonio had just three second-half turnovers after committing 14 turnovers in the first half. The Spurs ranked third during the regular season (13.6) and came in ranked fifth in the postseason (13.1).
OKC had applied the clamps through the first three quarters, holding San Antonio to 38.8-percent shooting (26 for 67) from the field and 16 turnovers. Thunder outscored the Spurs 24-16 in the third quarter to take its largest lead of the night.
"It was perseverance more than anything," said Spurs center Tim Duncan, who 16 points and 11 rebounds. "They were playing well in that third quarter and we stuck with it."
Manu Ginobili scored 11 of his team-high 26 points in the final period, going 3 for 3 from the field and 5 for 5 from the line.
He finished 9 for 14 from the field and 3 for 5 from 3-point range in Game 1. This came after shooting 25.7 percent (9 for 35) from 3-point range in the first two rounds.
"It just happened," Ginobili said afterward. "I don't know how exactly because I haven't scored like this all season long, but it happened and I'm very happy about it."
Led by Ginobili, San Antonio's bench outscored the Thunder bench 52-37 as guard Gary Neal pitched in 12 points and center Tiago Splitter had nine points and six rebounds in 12½ minutes.
"Oklahoma, they're a very good team," said Parker, who finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals. "They made it very, very hard on us tonight."
Game 2 in Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the AT&T Center.
"I know if we play the same way, we're not going to win Game 2," Parker said. "We're going to have to play a lot better."