After the release of the MVP voting on Tuesday, you couldn’t help but notice that the OKC/San Antonio series featured three players who finished in the top-5 in MVP voting: Kawhi Leonard (2nd), Russell Westbrook (4th), and Kevin Durant (5th). Of those three, Westbrook came out with the most-MVP-like performance and propelled the Thunder to a 95-91 win over the Spurs, giving them a 3-2 series lead.
Westbrook got started quick and came out with seven points in the first quarter as Oklahoma City put up 22 as a team on 42% shooting. By himself, Russ converted on 60% of his field goals, grabbed two boards and two steals as well, but was responsible for three of the seven Thunder turnovers in the frame — fortunately, San Antonio was unable to capitalize. The Spurs got off to a slow start and looked very uncharacteristic. Although they were able to hold their opposition to a relatively low scoring number, they tallied just 16 points themselves on 31% shooting. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge were inefficient and converted on just two of their eight combined shot attempts.
Coming out of that quarter, Leonard turned up the aggressiveness and almost singlehandedly dominated the Thunder. He was clearly looking for his shot more, and his attempts skyrocketed to ten after just three in the first; he hit seven of them for 15 points. San Antonio put up 32 as a team while OKC hit a rough patch on offense. Kevin Durant struggled, finishing just 2/7 from the field with five points. Westbrook struggled as well but led the Thunder with seven points on 2/5 shooting. Heading into halftime, San Antonio took a 48-43 lead.
It wasn’t the most efficient third quarter performance, but Oklahoma City edged the Spurs out in scoring 26-24 behind Westbrook’s 11 points on 3/8 shooting. Despite a bunch of missed shots, it was huge that Russ made smart decisions with the ball as he didn’t commit a single turnover in the period. He was able to capture three assists and five rebounds to boot. Aldridge and Danny Green led the Spurs’ offensively with nine and eight points, respectively, and Green knocked down both his shots from downtown. Leonard had a reticent quarter and attempted just four shots which netted him four points. The Thunder had trimmed San Antonio’s lead down to three and trailed 72-69 heading into the fourth.
In the postgame press conference, coach Popovich was asked if the game got away from the Spurs. He said it didn’t. The numbers, however, tell a different story. San Antonio shot roughly 29% for the quarter and finished with 19 points but, somehow, managed to stay competitive in the closing seconds of the ballgame. With about 55 seconds left, Danny Green fouled Durant and he sunk both free throws, giving OKC a 92-90 lead. Tony Parker missed one of the two free throws he took on the following possession, cutting the lead to 92-91.
To close out the game, there was another controversial ending. Dion Waiters inbounded to Westbrook, who got past Leonard, fouled by Aldridge, and finished his layup to get an and-1 opportunity. The controversy is that Leonard thought he fouled Westbrook (which he did by wrapping around his waist), and nothing was called, leading to the and-1. He hit the free throw, and the Thunder escaped with their victory.
Westbrook had a dazzling 35-point, 11-rebound, 9-assist performance while Durant chipped in 23 himself. Three Spurs finished with 20-plus points, and Kawhi Leonard led with 26 on 12/21 shooting, and Aldridge and Green each had 20.
Oklahoma City can clinch the series this Thursday, May 12, at 8:30 PM EST at home.