LOS ANGELES: Russell Westbrook scored 35 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder fought back to stun the San Antonio Spurs 95-91 and take a 3-2 series lead in their Western Conference semi-final playoff series on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
Oklahoma City had trailed by as much as 13 points at one point as the Spurs looked to seize the initiative in front of their home crowd at the AT&T Center.
But a scintillating fourth-quarter fightback transformed the contest and means the Thunder can clinch a series victory back in Oklahoma City in Thursday’s game six.
San Antonio appeared to be headed for victory after Kawhi Leonard punished a sloppy Thunder pass to put the Spurs 88-82 ahead with just over four minutes remaining.
However, Leonard’s basket became the cue for an eight-point run from Oklahoma City, who edged clear of their rivals.
Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter played a key role, hitting a layup and then blocking the Spurs’ Tim Duncan before running the length of the court to collect from Westbrook to hit another layup that put the Thunder up 90-88.
San Antonio’s Tony Parker tied the game with a jump shot to make it 90-90, but two free throws from Kevin Durant restored Oklahoma City’s two-point lead at 92-90.
Parker could have tied but instead missed one of two free throws to make it 92-91. The French star then missed a jumper with just over nine seconds remaining.
Westbrook gathered and converted a layup while being fouled before adding a free throw with 6.3 seconds on the clock to effectively clinch the win.
Westbrook only narrowly missed out on yet another triple-double, finishing with 11 rebounds and nine assists in addition to his 35-point haul.
“We got stops and Russ was a maniac tonight,” Durant said afterward. “We didn’t panic late in the game — it was a good win for us.”
“We did a good job of making them shoot mid-range shots and keeping them out of the paint,” he added. “We just kept fighting.”
Durant was the next highest scorer for Oklahoma City, chipping in with 23 points with six rebounds and five assists.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich bemoaned his team’s failure to make crucial shots when it mattered.
“It’s not like we got beat by 30 — the game went down to the wire and both teams played really well,” he said.
“You gotta make shots down the stretch, and sometimes things have to go your way,” he added. “We lost a couple of boards there at the end, just like the last game.”
Leonard was top scorer for San Antonio with 26 points, followed by LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green, who both finished with 20 points each.
But it was a disappointing night for veterans Parker and Tim Duncan. Parker had nine points while Duncan finished with five after 32 minutes on court.
Green meanwhile insisted the Spurs could square the series and force a decisive seventh game back in San Antonio.
“I hope we respond by being a little angry and with a chip on our shoulder,” he said. “We have to go into their building and force another game back here. It’s not over by any means.”