SAN ANTONIO: Tim Duncan tallied 22 points and 12 rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs routed Oklahoma City 117-89 to move within one win of reaching the NBA finals for the second straight year.
Guard Manu Ginobili came off the bench to score 19 points for the Spurs who connected on an impressive 51 percent of their shots from the field on Thursday (Friday in Manila) to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference final series.
“This is the craziest series I have ever been involved in, with the back and forth lead changes,” Duncan said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
The home team has won the first five games of this series, and the Thunder hope the trend continues Saturday in a must-win game six in Oklahoma City.
“Obviously, it seems like the home court motivates both teams pretty well,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “They both look like they feel pretty comfortable playing at home.”
San Antonio reached the finals last season, in which they lost in closely-fought seven game series to the Miami Heat.
After Thursday’s drubbing, San Antonio is just pleased they don’t have to answer any more questions about their 2012 Western Conference final meltdown.
The Spurs won the first two games of this series before losing two straight in Oklahoma City. That rekindled memories of the conference finals from 2012 when Oklahoma City reeled off four consecutive victories after going down 0-2.
But San Antonio wasn’t about to allow a repeat performance. The Spurs made 13 shots from beyond the arc and had a half dozen players in double figures scoring in game five in front of a crowd of 18,581 at the AT&T Center arena.
Ginobili led the offence off the Spurs’ bench which outscored the Thunder reserves 55-26.
“All the loose balls were ours and we didn’t turn the ball over,” said Ginobili. “So it was a combination of things we did really, really well.”
Boris Diaw scored 13 points and Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard each had 14 for San Antonio, who were held to under 40 percent shooting in games three and four.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook finished with 25 and 21 points, respectively, for Oklahoma City, a far cry from their brilliant 71-point combined effort in Tuesday’s victory.
“We didn’t have the defensive disposition that we’ve had the last two games,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “We have to regroup and come back better in a few days.”
Serge Ibaka was limited to six points and just two rebounds in the loss.
Durant said they are going to go home, tweak their game plan, and try to get a victory to force a game seven.
“We are guaranteed 48 more minutes. We got to figure out a way to come with it in game six,” he said.
They could take a bit of a lesson from San Antonio in that department.
Popovich decided to give sharpshooter Matt Bonner his first start of the season Thursday. Even though he wasn’t a big factor, the San Antonio bench was and were key in getting the Spurs off to a strong start.
The game was tied 32-32 at the end of the first quarter. Then Ginobili led the way in a one-sided second quarter with nine points on four-of-four shooting.
Ginobili’s layup and three-pointer put the Spurs ahead by as many as 13 late in the half before Westbrook hit a long shot at the buzzer to pull Oklahoma City to within 65-55 at halftime.
The Spurs closed out the third quarter on a 12-4 run to essentially put the game away.