SAN ANTONIO (AP) – San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stared blankly at a reporter, dumbfounded as he often is when dealing the media.
Is there any way to explain the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the Western Conference finals, where the home team has won each game in a blowout?
“You’re serious?” Popovich said. “You really think I can explain that? Good Lord. And they pay you, don’t they?”
Tim Duncan had 22 points and 12 rebounds, Manu Ginobili scored 19 points and San Antonio rolled to a 117-89 victory over Oklahoma City in Game 5 Thursday night, taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series to put the Thunder on the brink of elimination.
The latest lopsided loss in the West finals came two days after the Thunder used their superior athleticism to fluster the veteran Spurs in Oklahoma City in Game 4.
“We’ve just got to worry about the next game,” Kevin Durant said. “We’re guaranteed 48 more minutes. It’s been an up-and-down series, but we’ve got to find a way to win it in Game 6. If we want to get to where we want to get to, we’ve got to win in San Antonio, but we’ve got to get to the next game.”
The series resumes Saturday in Oklahoma City.
Durant scored 25 points, but Russell Westbrook had only 21 points and seven assists after finishing with 40 points and 10 assists in Game 4.
“Nothing,” changed defensively, Westbrook said. Yet, he was unable to charge the lane as effectively as he did while putting up 24 shots and reaching the free throw line 14 times on Tuesday.
He shot 6 for 12 from the field and 7 for 9 on free throws while again being guarded primarily by 6-foot-8 forward Kawhi Leonard.
“I think I did OK,” Leonard said. “We all did well as a group defensively, by just keeping a hand up and forcing difficult shots for everyone.”
That added aggression was key to winning, Popovich said before Game 5, and his team responded.
The Spurs had 23 assists, shot 30 free throws and outrebounded the Thunder 48-35. San Antonio also was 13 for 26 on 3-pointers and limited Oklahoma City to four fast-break points after giving up 21 in Game 4.
Leonard and Danny Green each had 14 points, Boris Diaw added 13 and Tony Parker scored 12 for the Spurs, who are a win away from returning to the NBA Finals after losing in seven games to Miami last year.
After losing twice in Oklahoma City by an average of 11 points, San Antonio upped its winning margin in San Antonio to 26.7 points.
Reggie Jackson had 11 points, but Serge Ibaka was held to six points and two rebounds after dominating the interior in Oklahoma City.
“It’s tough,” Ibaka said. “It’s a tough loss for us, and you need to give them a lot of credit. They played their best basketball tonight. They were better than us, they were more aggressive, but this happens sometimes. Now our focus is on the next game.”
The Spurs started Matt Bonner in place of Tiago Splitter to draw Ibaka out of the paint and it worked early. It also helped defensively, as Ibaka attacked Bonner but missed his first five shots on a series of running hooks. Duncan also was able to help, rolling over to block a layup attempt by Ibaka.
“He didn’t have the games that he had the last two games, that’s pretty clear,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought his energy was good. He competed. He missed some shots that he normally makes. (But) it was everybody. It was everybody.”
Oklahoma City had just 34 points in the second half after scoring 32 in the first quarter.
“I think it started in the second quarter, when they went up by 10 at the half,” Jackson said. “Personally, it felt like they were attacking me. Gregg Popovich himself could have thrown on a jersey.”
San Antonio outscored Oklahoma City by 10 points in both the second and third quarters, allowing both teams to sit their starters for much of the fourth.
“Our shots weren’t falling for us,” Durant said. “We’ve got to stay aggressive and we’ve got to get stops. When we can’t make a shot, we’ve got to play defense, and we didn’t tonight.”
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