Fri, Jun 08, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Thunder beat the Spurs and head to NBA Finals

AP, OKLAHOMA CITY

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook raises the Western Conference championship trophy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Kevin Durant had 34 points and 14 rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder claimed a spot in the NBA Finals by beating the San Antonio Spurs 107-99 on Wednesday night.

Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed Game 6 of the Western Conference finals by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point halftime deficit before pulling ahead to stay in the fourth.

Durant grabbed the final rebound, dribbled the ball across halfcourt and raised his right fist to celebrate with a sold-out crowd. The franchise will play for the NBA title for the first time since 1996, before relocating from Seattle.

Tony Parker had 29 points and 12 assists for San Antonio, but only eight of the points and two assists came in the second half. Tim Duncan chipped in 25 points and 14 rebounds, while Stephen Jackson scored 23.

Game 1 of the NBA finals will be on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City against either Boston or Miami. The Celtics lead that series 3-2.

The Thunder took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, getting nine of their first 13 points on free throws as the fouls started to pile up for San Antonio — six on the defensive end and three on the offensive end in the first seven minutes.

Derek Fisher and James Harden hit three-pointers in a three-possession span to increase the lead to 99-93 with 3 minutes, 13 seconds remaining, and Oklahoma City held on from there.

Jackson, who had made his previous six three-pointers, and Parker both missed three-pointers that would have gotten the Spurs within 103-102 in the final minute.

Durant celebrated even before the final buzzer, hugging his family seated courtside after a foul was called with 14 seconds remaining. The Thunder became the NBA’s 15th team to come back from a 0-2 deficit in a seven-game series, doing it against a team that had won 20 games in a row.

The Spurs put up quite a fight, at least for the first half.

Parker, who had been largely bottled up ever since the Thunder put 2m defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha on him in Game 3, was back at his best right from the start. Parker made seven of his first nine shots, wiggling into the lane for runners and layups while also setting up his teammates.

Parker had a hand in the Spurs’ first 12 baskets, making seven on his own and assisting on the other five, before Kawhi Leonard and Jackson followed his three-point play by nailing back-to-back three-pointers for a 34-16 advantage in the final two minutes of the first quarter.

The Spurs were nine-for-15 on three-pointers in the first half, many of them wide open, and maintained their lead right up until Durant’s three-pointer with 0.4 seconds left got Oklahoma City within 63-48 at halftime.

The Thunder stormed right back with an 11-2 run to start the third quarter and eventually pulled ahead after Durant’s three-pointer from the top of the key made it 79-77 with 1:41 left in the period.

After shooting 55 percent in the first half, San Antonio went only seven-for-22 in the third quarter and clung to an 81-80 lead heading into the fourth.

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