Durant stars again as Thunder reach NBA finals
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP):
For all the points, rebounds and assists that filled Kevin Durant's impressive stat line, it was a defensive play he made that fired up his coach and teammates.
"That's his first charge of the year,'' Russell Westbrook interjected when Durant was asked about drawing an offensive foul against Manu Ginobili in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City's 107-99 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.
Indeed, it was.
The league's three-time scoring champion had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season, leading the Thunder into the NBA finals. But it was taking that charge that got his team pumped up.
Durant stepped in front of Ginobili's drive during a 31/2-minute scoreless stretch by San Antonio that allowed Oklahoma City to take the lead for good.
"I just wanted to go out there and sacrifice my body for my team. I knew that would give us a little spark,'' Durant said.
"Manu's an unbelievable player at twisting his body and making crazy shots, so I just wanted to time it right. It felt good to get that for my team and I could tell they were excited that I got my first one when I looked at the bench.''
Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point half-time deficit.
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 seven minutes.
That included Durant's stop just outside the restricted area under the basket.
"Down the stretch, it seemed like they got every whistle possible and that really changed the tide,'' San Antonio's Tim Duncan said. ''We were playing tough defence and trying to get stops, but the whistle kept blowing and they went to the line.''
Tony Parker finished with 29 points and 12 assists, but only eight of the points and two assists came after San Antonio took a 63-48 half-time lead. Duncan chipped in 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Stephen Jackson hit six 3-pointers and scored 23 points.
The Spurs had won 20 in a row, moving past the Thunder for home-court advantage in the West and then taking a 2-0 lead in the series, before losing four in a row.
"There's not much to complain about,'' Ginobili said. ''We had a great run. We just couldn't beat these guys.''
Durant grabbed the final rebound, dribbled the ball across half court and raised his right fist to celebrate with a sold-out crowd wearing free white T-shirts. The franchise will play for the NBA title for the first time since 1996, when it was in Seattle.