Kevin Durant scored 20 of his game-high 34 points in the second half and played all 48 minutes as the Thunder stormed back from an 18-point, first half deficit to capture the Western Conference Championship Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
In just their fourth season in Oklahoma City, the Thunder reached the NBA Finals after overcoming a first half surge from Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs. Parker played a near perfect first quarter with 17 points (7-10), five assists and no turnovers.
The Spurs outscored the Thunder 34-20 in the opening period and shot 60% from the field, including 4-6 from beyond the arc.
Oklahoma City bounced back offensively in the second quarter with 28 points including five threes. Durant scored 10 in the period and pulled down five rebounds as well. James Harden knocked down two threes off the bench, but the Thunder still had trouble stopping the Spurs on defense.
Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal combined for 15 points in the second period to lead the Spurs. All 15 of their points came from beyond the arc. Duncan chipped in seven points as well to help San Antonio enter the half with a 15-point advantage.
Durant and Russell Westbrook exploded in the third quarter. The Thunder’s two superstars combined for 22 points on 8-12 shooting while Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha scored five apiece.
Oklahoma City’s defense exploded in the period as well. They held San Antonio to 18 points on 31% shooting and forced four turnovers while cutting the Spurs’ lead to just one before the final period.
Sefolosha’s defense on Parker proved to be a huge factor to Oklahoma City’s second half resurgence. Parker scored eight points in the second half and couldn’t get anything going after his huge first half performance.
The Thunder kept the foot on the pedal in the fourth quarter. Led by eight points from James Harden and 10 from Durant and Westbrook, Oklahoma City outscored the Spurs 27-18 and eliminated them from the postseason.
This group of guys has been resilient all season,” Westbrook said after the game. “We started off a little slow, but we stayed in it and after Kevin’s shot to end the first half, we took it and ran with it.
“We picked up our intensity defensively in second half and that’s Thunder basketball. That’s what got us the win tonight.”
The Thunder, in just its fourth year in Oklahoma City, has reached the NBA Finals after relocating from Seattle and starting from the ground up.
“As a group and as an organization we saw the light and saw that one day we would be at this moment,” Westbrook said. “Guys stay committed each year and every summer and now it has paid off.”
The Thunder now awaits the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics lead the Miami Heat 3-2 going into tonight’s Game 6 in Boston. The Finals go from a 2-2-1-1-1 format to a 2-3-2 and will begin Tuesday in Oklahoma City.