Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Thabo Sefolosha set playoff career-bests with 19 points and six steals, and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped San Antonio’s 20-game winning streak by beating the Spurs 102-82 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.
Oklahoma City closed its series deficit to 2-1 and will host Game 4 on Saturday night.
Sefolosha threw a wrench in the Spurs’ well-oiled offense at the start, getting four steals in the first 3 minutes. The Spurs ended up committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers and scoring their fewest points all season.
Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points apiece. Tim Duncan had 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting, taking 11 of San Antonio’s first 25 shots as the offense went through the all-star center instead of Parker.
San Antonio had been averaging 109.4 points during its month-and-a-half winning streak and had been held to double digits only twice.
The Spurs, who already set an NBA record for the longest winning streak carried over from the regular season into the playoffs, were trying to match the league mark for most wins to start the postseason. The Lakers won 11 in a row to start the 1989 and 2001 playoffs, getting swept in the NBA finals the first time and winning it all the second.
The Spurs’ last loss was to the Lakers at home on April 11.
Parker and Duncan didn’t play in the final 15 minutes, and coach Gregg Popovich pulled the plug after another series of three consecutive turnovers allowed the deficit to reach 23 points early in the fourth quarter.
Sefolosha had a right-handed dunk off a lob pass from Russell Westbrook, who followed with his own two-handed jam on an alley-oop pass, and Sefolosha followed with a reverse layup on another turnover-fueled fast-break chance to push the lead to 86-63 with 9:48 left.
The Thunder put together another 9-0 run coinciding with Manu Ginobili coming out of the game and featuring Serge Ibaka sticking his tongue out after nailing a jumper from the top of the key. Coach Scott Brooks soon followed suit and pulled his own front-line players with the game well in hand.
The Spurs wiped out a 24-point deficit in Game 3 against the Clippers in Los Angeles in the last round, but they weren’t recovering in this one.
San Antonio managed only 24 points in the paint after averaging 46 through the first two games of the series and 47.8 through the playoffs.
Oklahoma City already held a 28-8 scoring edge in the paint while staking itself to a 54-41 halftime lead, and it never got better for San Antonio, which couldn’t get any closer than 11 points in the second half.
The Thunder scored the game’s first eight points, feeding off Sefolosha’s steals, but San Antonio recovered in time to take the lead with more than 5 minutes left in the opening period.
Oklahoma City took the lead early in the second quarter, and there was no looking back.
Sefolosha set up Ibaka’s two-handed dunk and hit a 3-pointer during a 13-1 run, with San Antonio’s only point coming on a free throw by Ginobili after Durant was called for a technical foul while arguing a call from the bench.
Oklahoma City’s lead ballooned to 15 when Kendrick Perkins grabbed Westbrook’s airball and dunked it with two hands.