Thunder clips Spurs, heads to NBA finals

Kevin Durant had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder claimed a spot in the NBA finals by beating the San Antonio Spurs 107-99 on Wednesday night.

Oklahoma 107 San Antonio 99

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder claimed a spot in the NBA finals by beating the San Antonio Spurs 107-99 on Wednesday night.

Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed Game 6 of the Western Conference finals by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point halftime deficit before pulling ahead to stay in the fourth.

Durant grabbed the final rebound, dribbled the ball across halfcourt and raised his right fist to celebrate with a sold-out crowd. The franchise will play for the NBA title for the first time since 1996, before relocating from Seattle.

Tony Parker had 29 points and 12 assists for San Antonio, but only eight of the points and two assists came in the second half. Tim Duncan chipped in 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Stephen Jackson scored 23.

Game 1 of the NBA finals will be Tuesday night in Oklahoma City against either Boston or Miami.

The Celtics lead that series 3-2 and can earn a trip to the finals with a win at home in Game 6 on Thursday night.

The Thunder took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, getting nine of their first 13 points on free throws as the fouls started to pile up for San Antonio — six on the defensive end and three on the offensive end in the first 7 minutes.

Derek Fisher and James Harden hit 3-pointers in a three-possession span to increase the lead to 99-93 with 3:13 remaining, and Oklahoma City held on from there.

Jackson, who had made his previous six 3-pointers, and Parker both missed 3s that would have gotten the Spurs within 103-102 in the final minute.

Durant celebrated even before the final buzzer, hugging his family seated courtside after a foul was called with 14 seconds remaining.

The Thunder became the NBA’s 15th team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a seven-game series, doing it against a team that had won 20 games in a row.

The Spurs put up quite a fight, at least for the first half.

Parker, who had been largely bottled up ever since the Thunder put 6-foot-7 defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha on him in Game 3, was back at his best right from the start. Parker made seven of his first nine shots, wiggling into the lane for runners and layups while also setting up his teammates.

Parker had a hand in the Spurs’ first 12 baskets, making seven on his own and assisting on the other five, before Kawhi Leonard and Jackson followed his three-point play by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers for a 34-16 advantage in the final 2 minutes of the first quarter.

The Spurs were 9 for 15 on 3-pointers in the first half, many of them wide open, and maintained their lead right up until Durant’s 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left got Oklahoma City within 63-48 at halftime.

The Thunder stormed right back with an 11-2 run to start the third quarter and eventually pulled ahead after Durant’s 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 79-77 with 1:41 left in the period.

After shooting 55 per cent in the first half, San Antonio went only 7 for 22 in the third quarter and clung to an 81-80 lead heading into the fourth.

San Antonio missed nine of 11 3-pointers in the second half.

Notes: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose request for his team to play nasty led to T-shirts being made in San Antonio, said at the morning shootaround that his team needed to play “with a little bit of ugly.” Not nasty? “I was trying to stay away from that word,” he said. … San Antonio had a 29-28 edge in the second quarter after getting outscored 138-106 in the period in the first five games — dropping more than six points per game. … Greg Willard was initially scheduled to be one of the three officials but pulled out due to illness. Rodney Mott replaced him, alongside Joe Crawford and Bill Kennedy.

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