“It was perseverance more than anything,” said the Spurs' ancient Tim Duncan, who won the first of his four NBA titles in 1999, when Durant and Westbrook were 10 years old. “They were playing well in that third quarter and we stuck with it.”
The Thunder did not. On offense, the Thunder grew frustrated. Too much one-on-one. Too much isolation. Harden was called for two offensive fouls and Durant one in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Westbrook took a couple of wild shots.
Then the defense collapsed. The Spurs scored on eight straight possessions and 10 of 11 possessions.
They scored on the pick-and-the-roll and on an inbounds play and on a 3-pointer and mostly on Manu Ginobili's aggression.
“We did a great job defensively 3 1/2 quarters,” Westbrook said. “And then it kind of got out of hand.”
Truth is, the Spurs smelled victory and grew fangs. When the Thunder smelled victory, it wilted.
Write it off as growing pains. Truth is, this was not a bad night in the maturation of the Thunder.
“They're a very good basketball team,” Scotty Brooks said of the Spurs. “They're playing the best basketball in the league. And we were right there.”
Against lesser foes, the Thunder has stood tall in the fourth quarter. But this is San Antonio. This is different.
If the Thunder doesn't mature quickly, it will have little hope of beating the Spurs.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.