9:00 PM EDT
May 29, 2012
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder (0-1) at (1) San Antonio Spurs (1-0), 9 p.m. (ET)
(Sports Network) - Gregg Popovich may want some nasty but Scott Brooks is likely looking for a little calm as his Oklahoma City Thunder face the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Facing what might have been their toughest test in more than a month, the Spurs found a way to come out on top again in the opener of the set Sunday while the Thunder were left answering questions about a costly late game collapse.
Manu Ginobili scored 26 points off the bench as San Antonio rallied with a monster fourth quarter to beat Oklahoma City, 101-98, in Game 1. It was the Spurs' franchise-record 19th straight win dating back more than six weeks and has Popovich's club another step closer to the NBA Finals.
"The charges we took really helped change the game," Popovich said of his team's fourth quarter defense. "Made stops in the fourth quarter and the charges were a big part of that. I thought Stephen Jackson did a really good job for us down the stretch guarding Kevin Durant, which is like an impossible task basically."
Ginobili got 11 of his points in the final frame when the Spurs outscored the Thunder 39-27 to overcome a nine-point deficit. Tony Parker finished with 18 points, Tim Duncan scored 16 with 11 rebounds and Gary Neal had 12 points off the bench.
"Manu was great tonight," Parker said. "He was very aggressive. He was in a good rhythm early in the game. You can see he had a little bounce. He was playing great and making big shots. In the fourth quarter he wanted the ball, and he was very aggressive."
Durant led the Thunder with 27 points, James Harden scored 19, Russell Westbrook had 17 and Derek Fisher added 13 points after making his first six shots.
"It was a hard-fought ball game," said Brooks. "Nothing to be ashamed of."
After three quarters, Brooks' team was in a good position to avoid ending up like the other victims in San Antonio's win streak. The Thunder took a nine- point advantage into the fourth quarter after closing the third on a 10-3 run.
But the Spurs, coming off sweeps of the Jazz and Clippers, quickly stole the momentum back after playing -- according to Popovich -- with a lack of confidence.
Trying to hone an edge, Popovich shouted a command at his team in the huddle that's sure to become an oft-played sound bite and show up on T-shirts throughout the Alamo City.
"I want some nasty!" the coach screamed.
He smiled later when the moment was brought up by a reporter at the beginning of his post-game press conference, but his team snarled throughout the fourth quarter.
Parker hit a straightaway jumper early to tie the game at 73 -- part of an 18-3 run that eventually gave the Spurs an 82-76 lead.
The Thunder never got closer than four the rest of the way until a meaningless Harden three-pointer in the waning seconds accounted for the final margin.
Despite being so close after three quarters to ending San Antonio's winning streak that began 48 days ago, the Thunder went to the locker room in the same position as the Grizzlies, Suns, Warriors, Lakers, Kings, Cavaliers, Trail Blazers, Jazz and Clippers -- talking about a loss.
"They're playing the best basketball in the league," said Brooks, "and we were right there."
Ginobili ended 9-of-14 from the floor, including 3-for-5 on three-pointers. He made all three of his field goals in the fourth quarter and each of his five foul shots when the Spurs needed a spark the most.
"That's Manu's game. He's a scorer," said Popovich. "That's what he's done for us his whole career. Without that, we have a tough time winning."
San Antonio's last setback was April 11 to the Lakers. Earning another victory tonight would make the Spurs one of just four teams in NBA history with winning streaks of 20 games or longer.
With an eye on protecting his players, Brooks pointed a finger of blame at himself on Monday saying he made a mistake by keeping forward Serge Ibaka, the runner-up in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, on the bench in the fourth quarter of Game 1.
"I think every decision you make, if it doesn't work out, you say, 'Why did you do that?'" Brooks said. "And I'm with you on that. I wish I would've played Serge."
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 3 of the series is Thursday night in Oklahoma City.