SAN ANTONIO — Homecourt advantage has never been quite so advantageous.
Five games into these Western Conference Finals, the home team has not only won every game but also won every time on home hardwood convincingly. Two Spurs blowouts in San Antonio to start the series were followed by two decisive Thunder victories in Oklahoma City.
So, Game 5 in San Antonio on Thursday night?
It definitely followed the script.
Spurs 117, Thunder 89.
“I think it’s all mental,” Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins said of the road team’s inability to win on the road in this series thus far. “It just takes great focus. Obviously, having the home crowd behind you helps, but I think it’s all mental.”
For the first time in this series, the Thunder traveled south of the Red River with Serge Ibaka. When last it made the trip, its best shot blocker stayed home rehabbing a strained calf.
He returned for the two games in Oklahoma City, of course, and made a world of difference, but Thursday night, he and the Thunder defense struggled. The Spurs scored more points in the first three quarters as they did in all of Game 4 and shot 51.3 percent from the floor.
Credit adjustments by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
He started three-point threat Matt Bonner in place of postman Tiago Splitter. It stretched the Thunder defense, and while Bonner scored no points, the lineup adjustment helped the Spurs get off to a good start. They scored 32 points and shot 57.9 percent in the first quarter.
That momentum carried over.
In the first half, the Spurs hit 61 percent of their shots from the field, including a whopping 57.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. They had eight threes as five players hit from outside.
Worse, the Spurs scored 28 first-half points in the paint.
There was more of the same in the second half.
“You have to be able to deal with all five guys,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “You can’t have two or three defenders on the floor.”
Six Spurs finished scoring in double figures — Tim Duncan (22), Manu Ginobili (19), Kawhi Leonard (14), Danny Green (14), Boris Diaw (13) and Tony Parker (12).
For the Thunder, only Kevin Durant (25), Russell Westbrook (21) and Reggie Jackson (11) managed double digits, and Jackson didn’t score a point after the first quarter.
If the Thunder is to win this series, it must win back-to-back elimination games, first in Oklahoma City at 7:30 Saturday night, then in San Antonio on Monday. While the trend of only the home team winning games in this series could be bad news for the Thunder, the good news is that it has experience with this back-against-the-wall scenario. The Grizzlies led the Thunder 3-2 in their first-round playoff series, but the Thunder won Game 6 in Memphis and Game 7 in Oklahoma City to keep its season alive.
Now, it must do the same again.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Perkins said. “We’ve just got to stay focused. We’ll be all right.”