NBA: Spurs Need to Get Nasty to Beat Oklahoma City in Western Finals Opener
San Antonio. Manu Ginobili scored a playoff-high 26 points as the San Antonio Spurs won their 19th game in a row to equal the NBA record for longest winning streak in the playoffs, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 101-98, in the Western Conference finals opener on Sunday.
Obeying orders snarled by their coach in a fourth-quarter timeout to play “nasty,” the Spurs erased a nine-point deficit that stunned the Thunder, a team on its way to finally kicking the perception that it’s the underdog.
“I talked to them about they’ve got to get a little bit uglier, get a little more nasty, play with more fiber and take it to these guys,” Gregg Popovich said. “Meaning you have to drive it, you have to shoot it.”
And when they started doing that, the Thunder couldn’t keep up.
The 2001 Lakers are the only other team to carry a winning streak this long in the playoffs — and they did so on their way to a championship.
Game 2 is Tuesday night.
The Spurs matched the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, and with one more will become just the fourth team to hit 20.
Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker shook off a dismal start to finish with 18 points.
But it was Ginobili who steered the Spurs to strike first in a highly-anticipated matchup of the West’s top two teams for practically the entire regular season.
“They got us on our heels. We were not aggressive,” Ginobili said. “And in the second half, we did have it.”
Kevin Durant netted 27 points and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City, who defeated the past two NBA champions in their previous rounds and were in good shape to move ahead of San Antonio before getting blitzed in the fourth.
Durant, the three-time defending scoring champion did not score any field goals during the final 16-plus minutes of the contest.
“They forced me out a little bit and they do a good job on help-defense,” Durant said. “I did things I wanted to do tonight, I just have to do better next time.”
James Harden, who scored a trio of 3-pointers in the last couple minutes, finished with 19 points, and Russell Westbrook had 17.
”It’s a long series and you have to continue to play,” said Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher, who had 13 points. “They showed mental toughness tonight in being able to battle back, and now it’s our turn.”