Westbrook nets 40 as Thunder draw level
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP):
Russell Westbrook delivered a championship-calibre effort on Tuesday night to get the Oklahoma City Thunder back on level terms in the Western Conference finals.
Westbrook had 40 points, 10 assists and five steals in a 105-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs that levelled the series at 2-2.
"Coach told us he needed maximum effort from us tonight, and it starts with me at point guard," Westbrook said. "My job is to play both sides of the ball. If you want to win a championship, those are things you have to do."
It matched the second-highest play-off points total of Westbrook's career, falling short of the 43 he scored in the 2012 NBA Finals.
"Just his focus on every possession on the defensive end and his poise on the offensive end ... that's fun to watch," Kevin Durant said. "People outside of our team don't really look at that type of stuff, but that's something we can definitely build on as a group; watching him wreak havoc on the defensive end and offensively, playing with such patience."
At times, Westbrook has been a maddening player for Thunder fans to watch. His dynamic athletic ability gives him a supreme confidence level that sometimes leads to ill-advised shots and a tendency to hold the ball at the expense of offensive flow.
But in this game, Westbrook did just about everything right. He shot 50 per cent from the field and took just five three-pointers. He made 14-of-14 free throws.
"Sometimes he's going to go off," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "He's capable of doing that. If he makes a lot of jumpers, it gets really tough."
Kevin Durant scored 31 points, his highest-scoring game of the series after the NBA's leading scorer was held to a 22.7-point average, in the first three games. Serge Ibaka added nine points and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who have turned around the series since he returned from an injury that was expected to keep him out for the rest of the post-season.
"We just play well with Serge," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We can do things with Serge in the lineup that we can't do with other guys."
Boris Diaw had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Tony Parker added 14 points for the Spurs, who blew a 2-0 lead against the Thunder in this round two years ago and are in danger of doing it again. San Antonio will host Game Five tonight and won't be worried about the past.
"I think we shouldn't think like that," Parker said. "Each game is different. Each series. Each year. We worked hard all year to have home court advantage and now it's our job to protect home court."
The Thunder still need to win on the road to win the series.