On a night in which Durant struggled to the tune of 28 points on 26 shots, the Thunder still had too many difference-makers for the Spurs. It started with Westbrook but continued with another superb effort by Reggie Jackson, who came off the bench to pump in 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting with four rebounds and four assists, and also included Serge Ibaka, a game-changer on defense with his length and shot-blocking. Ibaka scored 11 points with a game-high 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“We just focus in more,” Westbrook said. “Obviously, when you play San Antonio you can’t be lackadaisical. As you see, we started the first half just kind of going through the motions and they scored points real quick. And I think we’ve been doing a great job the last couple of years just focusing in and being real particular on what we do on different players.”
San Antonio held out sixth man Manu Ginobili to rest, and without him the other two Spurs stars weren’t nearly enough to contend with all that the Thunder had in the cupboard. Tim Duncan was neutralized, as Kendrick Perkins returned from a 17-game absence to help hold the future Hall of Famer to 17 points on just 5-for-15 shooting. Spurs point guard Tony Parker, meanwhile, had a nightmare game, scoring six points on 3-for-10 shooting with just three assists against three turnovers.
The credit for Parker’s performance goes back to Westbrook and his renewed focus on playing both ends.
“The thing that’s underrated in Russell’s game is his leadership and his ability to defend,” Brooks said. “He’s an amazing scorer. He can put points on the board. He can get KD a lot of looks. But what he does, he leads and he defends at a high level, and that’s what really makes us a good basketball team.”
As the Spurs again saw, Westbrook’s relentless energy is every bit as pivotal as well.
Westbrook essentially put the Spurs away when he intercepted an inbounds pass Marco Belinelli intended for Patty Mills. After recovering the ball, Westbrook gathered his steps and soared in for a sensational reverse dunk. It brought the crowd to its feet and kept the Spurs from making a late rally.
“I haven’t dunked for the Thunder fans in a while,” Westbrook said. “So I thought I would do a little something tonight.”