Equally critical but perhaps forgotten was how the Thunder’s defensive pressure, for the first time, dictated the matchup and forced Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to insert Manu Ginobili for Danny Green only 21/2 minutes into the quarter.
“We put bodies on people at the right times and really made it difficult for them to score in the third period to start out,” said Derek Fisher. “They made some lineup adjustments, got a couple different guys in there, but for the most part, until the last minute-45, 50 seconds of the third quarter, we were great on the defensive end. Only a couple mistakes that cost us baskets.”
The Thunder took a second one-point lead on a runner by Durant with 4:44 remaining in the period. It was the Thunder’s final lead of the night. The Spurs closed the quarter on a 12-4 run, but the road team got a taste of something it could replicate in Game 2.
Brooks said the Thunder simply played tougher on defense in that period and used speed and athleticism, mostly supplied by Russell Westbrook, to create havoc on offense.
“That's always a good recipe for our success,” Brooks said.
The biggest problem was the Thunder just didn’t do it consistently in Game 1.
And everyone could see it.
Fisher: “You can’t always win just by playing hard and playing with great effort, but that definitely was a problem for us last night.”
Kendrick Perkins: “It was like night and day watching the first quarter and watching the third quarter.”
Kevin Durant: “That was our best stretch right there. We only played eight minutes of good basketball last game.”