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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2010

NBA: Spurs beat Thunder to forge tie for 6th

AP Sports Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY — George Hill scored a career-high 27 points, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame Kevin Durant’s 45 to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-96 on Monday night and forge a tie between the teams for sixth place in the Western Conference standings.

Serge Ibaka swatted away Tim Duncan’s layup try to give the Thunder a chance with 8.8 seconds left, but Thabo Sefolosha missed a 3-pointer from the left wing with 5 seconds remaining after he was left open because of a double-team against Durant.
Manu Ginobili then hit one of two free throws with 2.3 seconds left, and Russell Westbrook couldn’t connect on a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to tie it for the Thunder.
Durant matched his season high and helped Oklahoma City close a six-point deficit in the final 4 minutes. His 13-foot jumper tied the game at 96 with 48 seconds left.
Ginobili was fouled on a drive to the basket on San Antonio’s ensuing possession and sank both of his free throws. Westbrook turned the ball over by stepping on the sideline on his inbounds pass, but Ibaka came up with a big stop for Oklahoma City.
Sefolosha’s open 3 from the left wing hit both the back and front of the rim before bounding away. The Thunder had a six-game home winning streak snapped and lost back-to-back games for the first time in a month.
Hill has been taking on a bigger role for the Spurs since point guard Tony Parker was sidelined with a broken bone in his right hand that has kept him out for the last nine games. But no game was bigger than this one.
Ginobili added 21 points, Duncan scored 14 and reserve Roger Mason Jr. had 13 points.
Jeff Green had 16 points, Westbrook 12 and Ibaka 10 for Oklahoma City.
The game could be a pivotal one in the race for playoff positioning in the Western Conference. The teams entered with only a game separating them in the standings, and each ends the season with brutal schedules, facing 11 opponents with winning records in their final 14 games.
The victory gives San Antonio the tiebreaker with a 3-1 advantage in the season series.
Durant kept the Thunder even for a while after starters Green and Westbrook headed to the bench with four fouls early in the second half. Durant scored Oklahoma City’s next eight points, but then San Antonio put together an 8-0 run that featured back-to-back three-point plays by Hill and Matt Bonner to go up 81-74 late in the third quarter.
The Spurs took their largest lead at 86-78 following DeJuan Blair’s basket inside in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma City closed most of the gap with a 10-3 run to get within 89-88 on Durant’s jumper from the right side with 6:26 remaining, but Richard Jefferson ended that stretch by cutting to the basket for a three-point play. His two-handed dunk produced by Ginobili’s steal put the Spurs up 96-90 with 3:52 to play.
Ibaka tipped the ball away from Duncan twice in forcing a shot clock violation that allowed Durant the chance for the tying jumper with 48 seconds left.
The Thunder opened a 14-point lead midway through the second quarter mostly behind 19-for-21 foul shooting. The Spurs closed the half on an 11-4 run to get within 59-56 after Hill was fouled by Durant on a halfcourt shot with 1 second left and hit three free throws.
NOTES: Several Thunder players attended a Jay-Z concert in Indianapolis on Saturday night before Oklahoma City gave up its most points of the season in a 121-101 loss to the Pacers in a matinee game the following afternoon. But coach Scott Brooks said all the players were back at a reasonable hour and he doesn’t enforce a firm curfew. “I trust our guys. They’ve given me no reason not to trust them,” Brooks said. “Our guys are very professional and they really take their jobs serious and they have a lot of pride in our team. If it ever became a problem, which I don’t see it, then I would address it. But no issues with that whatsoever.” ... Oklahoma City finished 28 for 32 at the foul line.