SAN ANTONIO — A couple days ago, Kevin Durant wondered why so many questions leading up to the Thunder-Spurs series focused on how the Thunder would stop the Spurs, and not the other way around.
I wonder if he still wonders.
I wonder if Monday the Thunder will spend any more energy making sure everyone knows Oklahoma City respects but does not fear the San Antonio Spurs.
Because after Game 1, a healthy dose of both seems to be in order.
There should be utmost respect for the team that turned the fourth quarter in to a finishing school if Oklahoma City was paying attention. And there should be fear of Manu Ginobili.
The fourth quarter of San Antonio's 101-98 victory was Ginobili's; everyone else was just playing in it. If you don't fear what Ginobili can do — what he did — it might be tough to get serious about trying to stop it in Game 2.
The Thunder did a decent job defending everyone else. The point guard duel between Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook didn't materialize, much to Westbrook's credit.
Parker's 42-point statement when they squared off a couple months ago and overall strong play vs. OKC apparently got through to Westbrook, who for three quarters looked like the defensive wiz Sam Presti drafted out of UCLA. Parker was 4 of 12 shooting until the fourth, and there were times when he looked more than a little bit unsure of himself.
Kendrick Perkins kept Tim Duncan sufficiently in check. You can live and win with Duncan's 6-of-15 shooting, especially with Perk batting foul trouble.
Oklahoma City cannot win — and the Spurs cannot lose — with Ginobili doing this thing, his thing.
Ginobili capped a 26-point performance with a near perfect fourth quarter of shooting (3 of 3 from the field, 5 of 5 from the line) and orchestration of the Spurs pick-and-roll magic.
He split defenders trying to ambush him at the point of a pick. He nailed step-back jumpers. He had the game on a string. And so much for the talk that he'd lost his 3-point touch in the postseason (29 percent going into Game 1). Ginobili was 3 of 5 from 3-point range Sunday night.
He was most deadly, however, attacking the basket. With San Antonio trailing 71-62, Ginobili executed a perfect pick-and-roll with reserve Tiago Splitter for a layup on the first possession of the fourth quarter. And right then it felt like something had changed.
“That's Manu's game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's a scorer. He's somebody we depend on to create and make things happen. Whether it's shooting or driving or assisting somebody else. That's what he's done for us his whole career. And it's very important to us.
“Without that, we have a tough time winning.”
Count me among the folks who have compared Thunder sixth-man extraordinaire James Harden to Ginobili. I think I've assigned a story or 12 to Darnell Mayberry on that very topic.
After Game 1, I think I'll quietly back away from that thought for a while.
“He's just left-handed and crafty,” said Harden, who knows left-handed and crafty when he sees it, even when it's blowing past him. “He can get to the rim. He made plays in the fourth quarter. We've got to do a better job of containing him and make him make passes. Like I've said, he had a very good fourth quarter.”
I don't know if James noticed, but Ginobili was pretty fierce at the end of the first quarter, when he scored seven straight points at a time the Thunder looked poised to run wild on the Spurs.
“Ginobili was terrific tonight, guys,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He was making shots, making threes, getting to the basket, getting to the foul line. That's what he does. He finds cracks that you don't think it's even possible.
“He figures it out to get in there and get through to our guys.”
Now it's Brooks' job to get this through to them: Manu Ginobili with the basketball in his hand is scary.