Riding some serious halftime momentum, following a second quarter that ended on a 20-9 run, the Thunder emerged from the locker room to some fortunate news.
Already down seven, San Antonio would be without All-Star point guard Tony Parker in the second half with an ankle injury. “See you on Monday” was the general consensus on press row.
But the Spurs didn’t blink. And the Thunder imploded — crumbling in a third quarter of doom that will define OKC’s season-ending 112-107 Game 6 loss on Saturday night.
“The third quarter hurt us,” Thunder Scott Brooks said. “That’s the thing about this basketball team we’re playing against. If you relax for two or three minutes, they can go on a 12-2 run.”
Right as the quarter begin — sans Parker and even with a Game 7 cushion to fall back on — the Spurs looked like the more desperate team. Playing with end-to-end energy, San Antonio scored on seven straight possessions at one point, while limiting the Thunder to nine points in the first seven minutes.
A seven-point deficit had quickly turned into a two-point lead.
But the Spurs remained greedy. And the Thunder got sloppy, particularly the MVP.
Kevin Durant had five points in the third quarter. But he also had five of his seven turnovers, tossing ill-advised passes and committing unforced errors. As a team, the Thunder had eight turnovers in the quarter, while the Spurs only had one.
“We got some open looks, they made some turnovers, turned them into points and got back in the game,” Tim Duncan said. “So that was the difference.”
It was a devastating 12 minutes of basketball for the Thunder. But it was a fatal 32 seconds to close it out.
In the final minute, already trailing by three, Boris Diaw turned a Thunder turnover into a big three on the other end. Then moments later, after a Reggie Jackson missed layup, the Spurs dwindled the game clock down and Danny Green knocked in another momentum three, plus a Kevin Durant foul, for a four-point play.
The Spurs’ lead had ballooned to 10. San Antonio ended the quarter with a 7-0 run in the final half-minute, securing a lopsided 37-20 advantage for the period.
“Defensively, they had us scrambling around,” Brooks said. “They made some big plays at the end (of the third).”
Backs against the wall, desperate to stave off elimination, the Thunder put up a valiant fourth-quarter effort. Playing with a frantic and explosive style, OKC found a way to force an overtime in which it’d eventually be eliminated.
But this one was lost in a game-changing third quarter that looked so promising at the start. Despite missing Parker, eight Spurs players made at least one shot in the quarter. The Thunder only had five players score in the entire game.
Story of the game. Story of the series.