Oklahoma City takes 3-2 series lead in Western Conference finals | NBA
Ex-Sonic Kevin Durant scored 27 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 108-103 victory over host San Antonio in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals. The Thunder leads the best-of-seven series 3-2.
SAN ANTONIO — Kevin Durant scored 27 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder is on the brink of making the NBA Finals, beating the San Antonio Spurs 108-103 in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Western Conference final series.
Russell Westbrook added 23 points to help the Thunder take a 3-2 series lead.
Looking invincible while carrying a 20-game winning streak a week ago, the Spurs have lost three straight and are on the verge of a stunning collapse.
Manu Ginobili scored 34 points in a smashing return to San Antonio's starting lineup. But trailing 106-103 and with the Spurs down to their last shot, Ginobili missed an off-balance three-point attempt in the final seconds.
Game 6 is Wednesday in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder can punch its ticket to the NBA Finals in the place they haven't lost all postseason.
Oklahoma City is bringing home what it needed: the must-win on the road if it is going to advance.
"We never thought we're supposed to wait our turn," Durant said.
Oklahoma City pulled it off behind its stars. James Harden scored 20, joining ex-Sonic Durant and Westbrook as the lone Thunder players in double figures.
Harden made one of the biggest shots, a three-pointer with 28.8 seconds left that pushed Oklahoma City's lead to five. He revealed the ball was supposed to go to Durant but said he had no choice but to let one go.
"The shot clock was running down and I had to make a play," Harden said. "(Kawhi) Leonard was playing great defense on me. I just shot it with confidence."
Tony Parker had 20 points and Tim Duncan contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs.
After remaining unbeaten for 50 days before arriving in Oklahoma City, San Antonio has lost three games in five days. The Spurs must win twice to avoid seeing their last best chance to win a title in the Duncan era end.
"Championship teams win on the road," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Oklahoma City just did that."
It was the first time the Spurs have lost three in a row all season.
Not wanting the series to slip away, Popovich moved Ginobili to the starting lineup in place of Danny Green, who came in shooting 8 of 28 in the series. It was the first start for Ginobili since March and his eighth all season.
Ginobili made 11 of 21 shots and connected on half of his 10 three-point shots. But with 4.9 seconds left, the one he needed most clanged off the back of the rim.
"It wasn't a great shot, but it wasn't a bad one," said Ginobili, who pounded his fist on the scorer's table after the miss. "It just didn't go in."
• The Boston Celtics' 93-91 overtime victory over the visiting Miami Heat on Sunday drew the highest preliminary TV rating for an NBA playoff game on cable since records started being kept in 2003.
Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on ESPN produced a 7.9 overnight rating. Network officials said that was up 39 percent from Game 4 of the 2011 West finals on ESPN between the Thunder and Dallas.
Game 5 is Tuesday in Miami. The series is tied 2-2.
• The Los Angeles Lakers exercised their $16.1 million contract option for next season on All-Star center Andrew Bynum, 24.
• The Trail Blazers have hired ex-Los Angeles Clippers general manager Neil Olshey, 47, to serve in the same role with Portland.
The Blazers have been operating under interim GM Chad Buchanan for the last year.
• The Washington Wizards are bringing back coach Randy Wittman, 52, who was 18-31 after taking over for Flip Saunders early in the season.