SAN ANTONIO — Kevin Durant spent so much time talking about trust.
Trusting the system. Trusting his teammates. Trusting the pass.
But as soon as the Thunder got its first taste of adversity against San Antonio in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night, all those grandiose ideas of solving these Spurs and knotting up this series with simple concepts and straight-forward fundamentals flew out the window. Oklahoma City quickly became a desperate team that reverted to relying on a two-man game featuring Durant and Russell Westbrook.
It disrupted the Thunder’s rhythm.
It bogged down the Thunder’s offense.
It spurred San Antonio to the 112-77 South Texas spanking we saw inside AT&T Center.
San Antonio 2. Oklahoma City 0.
Game 3 is Sunday in Oklahoma City.
For the Thunder to now have any chance at keeping this series from inching closer to life support, Westbrook and Durant will have to do more than just talk a good game. They’ll need to play one. They did anything but Wednesday, statistically, aesthetically or mentally.
Oklahoma City’s dynamic duo combined to score 30 points on 13 of 40 shots. They missed eight of nine 3-pointers and had seven assists against five turnovers.
But they also were the Thunder’s two biggest problems in the turning point of the game.
Go back to the nine-minute mark of the second quarter. Westbrook re-entered the game with 9:13 remaining in the period. The Thunder led by one, 30-29. For whatever reason, Westbrook then went on one of his well-known, one-man crusades.
He put his head down. He put the ball on the floor. He attacked.
Westbrook used five straight possessions. He went 1-for-4 with a turnover.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks re-inserted Durant with 6:18 showing as an attempt to restore order. Spurs forward Tim Duncan stood at the foul line, where he made two free throws to put San Antonio back ahead by one, 37-36.
Durant then took his turn, missing two straight jumpers. Brooks summoned Reggie Jackson off the bench with 4:22 left in the period to find better balance. By then, the Spurs were off and running, in the infancy stages of delivering the Thunder its slow but steady demise.
By the end of the quarter, over those final nine minutes, Durant and Westbrook combined to use 13 of 19 Thunder possessions. Nine were used by Westbrook.
With 2 1/2 minutes remaining, the Thunder led by five. But Spurs guards Danny Green and Manu Ginobili made three straight 3-pointers to cap a 25-8 run and give San Antonio a 58-44 halftime lead.
Durant took responsibility for that.
“I messed the game up at the end of the second quarter,” he said. “I got hit on the screen and Danny Green got open for a 3. I over-helped, and he got another 3. And then Ginobili hit a 3. All those plays was on me. It was my fault, and I take full responsibility for it. Wish they wouldn’t have happened. I can’t get them back now. But I’ll take that one.”
The rest, Durant defiantly dismissed.
But the evidence spoke for itself.
In the first seven minutes of the third, Durant and Westbrook were back at it, taking turns chucking shots as they attempted slice into the Spurs’ lead as if each shot was worth six points.
Westbrook and Durant used six of the Thunder’s first eight possessions of the period and 14 of 19 in that game-clinching eight-minute stretch. They used five straight during one stretch and eight straight during another. In the latter stretch, they hoisted four straight 3-pointers, each letting two fly.
When Spurs forward Boris Diaw drilled a 3-pointer with 4:56 remaining in the third, the Thunder trailed, 79-52.
“We didn’t stop trusting,” Durant said.
Asked why they stopped moving the ball Durant, displaying some of the best defense of the night, responded, “We didn’t.”
So how do you explain it?
A 17-minute stretch in which a one-point lead turned into a 27-point deficit? The Spurs storming to a 46-16 run while Durant and Westbrook used 27 of 38 possessions despite going 8-for-23 with four turnovers and only one assist?
“Because we’re the focal point of the offense,” Durant said.
And on Wednesday night, they unnecessarily grew desperate and stopped doing what they said they needed to do most in Game 2.