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OKC Thunder: Western Conference race tightens up

By John Rohde, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: March 17, 2012
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The Thunder has owned the best record in the Western Conference every day this season.

OKC won on opening day, went 5-0 the first week and has never looked back.

But with San Antonio's 114-105 victory over the Thunder on Friday night, images in OKC's rearview mirror suddenly are closer than they appear.

The Thunder (33-11) still leads the Spurs (29-13) by two games in the loss column, but it would have been by twice that many had OKC been able to complete an unfathomable comeback before another sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Down 27 points in the second quarter, the Thunder slowly clawed back, began a 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter and pulled to within two points on two occasions midway through the fourth quarter.

That's when the Spurs, who have been making clutch plays for more than a decade under coach Gregg Popovich, regained control with suffocating defense and patient offensive execution at key moments.

"We should never get down 27 points, unfortunately we did," OKC coach Scott Brooks said.

Now the Western mountaintop where the Thunder once had solid footing has become a slippery slope. OKC is 4-4 over its last eight games and its next 11 games are against teams still in the playoff hunt.

Once 17-1 at The Peake where it had won 14 straight, the Thunder is now 18-4 at home where it has lost three of its last four.

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