Early in the second quarter, with the Thunder cranking up the intensity, it occurred to me what might have been said in the OKC locker room before tipoff: “Do we really want to play these guys one more time?” The answer seemed pretty obvious at the time, but the third quarter hammered it home. The Spurs, held to a miserable 31 points in the first half, got loose for 34; but the Thunder picked up 36, so San Antonio actually lost ground. So I decided to focus on Tim Duncan, the grand old man in grey and black, who had his best night of the series tonight, and just to make it interesting, the Spurs opened the fourth quarter with a 14-3 run, most of which seemed to come from Kawhi Leonard. The Thunder stumbled around a bit, as they’ve done too often in fourth quarters before, with Russell Westbrook inflicting a Flagrant One upon Danny Green. (Green, obligingly, missed one of the two free throws, and the extra San Antonio possession produced no bucket.) But order was restored to the universe, and Duncan and Andre Miller, possibly on their way to Retirementville, were allowed to finish things up in grand style. (Good call, Pop.) Oklahoma City 113, San Antonio 99, and if you had “Thunder in six,” step forward and claim whatever it is you’re supposed to be getting.
This is the juxtaposition that screamed at me from the box score: the Spurs were 13-16 on free throws. Kevin Durant was 12-12. (KD finished with 37 for the night.) And really, I’m not used to seeing San Antonio get a whole crapton of fouls; Manu Ginobili (how?) actually fouled out. Desperation will make you do strange things. And for a while there, the Spurs were flailing about like crazy. Still, you don’t get this far into the playoffs without something intangible. Maybe it was those two elderly gentlemen, Miller and Duncan, showing how it’s done. (Duncan was +13 for the night with 19 points; Miller dished up four assists and snagged three rebounds in a mere nine minutes.) You have to figure that next season’s Spurs will be plenty tough: they still have Kawhi and LaMarcus and maybe even Tony Parker. But, as the poet said, that’s next season. For now, our attention turns westward, where the Warriors will be waiting in Oakland, and they’re tough and scrappy and incredibly freaking dangerous, the way defending champions are supposed to be.