Published May 31, 2012
| Sports Network
Something has to give on Thursday night when the sizzling San Antonio Spurs visit the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Spurs, of course, became just the fourth team in NBA history to win 20 straight games and are a perfect 10-0 in this postseason after taking the first two games of this set in the Alamo City.
The Thunder, meanwhile, have yet to lose on their home floor in the playoffs and are hoping a change in scenery can get them back in the series.
"We've been a resilient group that bounces back," Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "Tough to go down 0-2. We get an opportunity to go home and play in front of our home crowd and try to get Game 3. So we've got to take it a game at a time, a possession at a time. We'll be all right."
San Antonio bent, but never broke on Tuesday in Game 2. After seeing a 22-point lead nearly disappear, the Spurs held on for their 20th consecutive win behind Tony Parker's brilliant night.
The electrifying point guard finished 16-of-21 from the floor and had 34 points as San Antonio survived in a 120-111 victory.
"It was just one of those nights," Parker said. "I felt in a good rhythm early on. I was making my outside shots and just trying to be aggressive."
Manu Ginobili added 20 points, Kawhi Leonard scored 18 with 10 rebounds and Tim Duncan had 11 points and 12 boards in the win as the Spurs overcame 88 combined points from Thunder stars Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
San Antonio's current 20-game run is the longest extended into the playoffs in NBA history, breaking the 19-game streak by the 2001 Lakers.
"It's great and it is a great run, but we are only worried about the next two wins in this series," Duncan said. "That is all that matters at this point and if that makes it 22 in a row, that would be great. These next two wins are the most important things to us right now."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich -- who screamed at his team during Game 1 that he wanted "some nasty" as they labored to come back from a nine-point deficit -- watched a 22-point lead in the third quarter melt down to six midway through the fourth on Tuesday.
The NBA Coach of the Year said his team didn't let up.
"I thought we lost a little mojo," said Popovich. "(But) that's how things happen. It's the NBA. Teams don't just die; they come back on you."
Durant had 31 points, Harden scored 12 of his 30 in the fourth quarter and Westbrook added 27 points, including 11 in the final frame when the Thunder outscored the Spurs 35-28.
"We fought back like we always do," said Westbrook. "We just didn't win. We have to make sure we come out in Game 3 with a sense of urgency."
Parker lined up all alone in the right corner for a three-pointer to give the Spurs a 20-point lead with 5:15 left in the third quarter, and it looked like the rout was on.
San Antonio pushed its lead to 22 on the next trip down the court, but Durant scored six points in an 8-0 Thunder run to trim the margin to 80-66. It stayed between 14 and 18 points for the rest of the third quarter before the Thunder began chipping away.
They were never closer in the second half than when Westbrook made a pair of foul shots to cut San Antonio's lead to 99-93 with 5:40 remaining. Duncan hit a couple of free throws at the other end and Parker's layup pushed the lead to 10.
The dagger didn't come until later, when Ginobili knocked down a three for a 115-105 lead with just 88 seconds left. The Spurs ended 11-of-26 on threes and shot better than 55 percent overall.
"I like the way our guys fought," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team shot 42 percent for the game but nearly 53 percent in the fourth quarter. "We just couldn't get over the hump. We dug ourselves a deep hole."
Brooks believes that the Thunder got back into Game 2 by amping up the physicality and hopes that continues.
"We're a physical team. We have to play that way," Brooks said Wednesday. "If we play free-flowing basketball, we can beat some teams but we're not at our best if we're not being physical on the defensive end."
Popovich on the other hand is secure in the knowledge that his team hasn't lost since April 11 to the Lakers and that only 14 teams in NBA history have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a seven-game series.
The Spurs went 2-1 against the Thunder during the lockout-shortened regular season. Oklahoma City won the first meeting, 108-96 on Jan. 8 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but the Spurs came back to take the season series with a 107-96 victory Feb. 4 at the AT&T Center and a 114-105 road win March 16.
In the postseason, this rivalry dates back to 1982 when the Thunder were known as the Seattle SuperSonics. The Spurs topped Seattle three times in the playoffs, '82, 2002 and 2005. This is the first time the franchises have met since the Sonics relocated to OKC in 2008.
Game 4 of the series is Saturday in Oklahoma City.