Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Revived Thunder Looking for Key Win Tonight on the Road

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Revived Thunder Looking for Key Win Tonight on the Road

Article excerpt

In the span of three days, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs as many times as they had in the past three years.

And now the Western Conference Finals are suddenly up for grabs.

What once seemed like the continuation of one of the most dominant runs in NBA history has turned into a genuine toss-up of a series after the Thunder stopped San Antonio's perfect stretch with two convincing victories in half a week.

Game 5 is tonight in San Antonio. Oklahoma City needs at least one road win to advance, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks said there's no time like the present. "We have a great opportunity in Game 5," Brooks said.

Seldom have the Thunder been able to say that when they faced the Spurs. Since James Harden joined Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in 2009, the Thunder had been 2-8 against San Antonio heading into this series. Now they return to Texas with a chance to hand the Spurs three consecutive losses for the first time all season.

"We've just got to go down there with the mindset that we're going to play hard every possession, play together like we've been playing these last few games, and we'll see what happens," said Durant, who is averaging 29 points this series after scoring 36 in Game 4 on Saturday. "We've just got to keep believing."

Spurs players didn't meet with reporters Sunday. Coach Gregg Popovich, back at Spurs headquarters trying to solve his team's first skid since April 9, 2011, said their attitude hasn't changed from when they were winning 20 games in a row.

Also not likely to change much are the defensive looks the Spurs threw at the Thunder in a 109-103 loss on Saturday.

That's because, as far as Popovich is concerned, there is little to plan for when three typically unheralded offensive players shoot a combined 22 of 25 for 49 points.

That's what Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison did in Game 4, giving the Thunder a rare dose of balance on a team that leaned on its Big Three for nearly 70 percent of its scoring before this series. …

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