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Monday, May 28, 2012 - Page updated at 09:30 p.m.
San Antonio beats Oklahoma City in opener of West finals | NBA playoffs
By The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO — Coach Gregg Popovich said he wanted some "nasty." The San Antonio Spurs obliged and tied a league record, along with leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder agonizing about what could have been.
Manu Ginobili scored 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting and the Spurs won their 19th game in a row to tie the league mark for longest winning streak kept alive in the playoffs, beating the Thunder 101-98 in the Western Conference finals opener Sunday night.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday.
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, which had looked on its way to kicking the perception it is the underdog in the series.
Ex-Sonic Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points and James Harden scored 19.
"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," Popovich said. "Meaning you have to drive it, you have to shoot it."
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.
Tim Duncan contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, and Tony Parker shook off a dismal start to finish with 18 points and six assists. But it was Ginobili who made the biggest difference.
"They got us on our heels. We were not aggressive," Ginobili said. "And in the second half, we did have it."
• The East final series starts Monday, when the Boston Celtics visit the Miami Heat. For the fifth time in seven years, either Boston or Miami will win the East and advance to the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
"Inevitable. It's the matchup the game of basketball wants," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.
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