Following the Spurs’ regrettable season-ending loss to the Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday, Tim Duncan suggested the Thunder benefited from plenty of whistles going their way.
“I thought our effort was there, our execution was there, they just made shots for a stretch there and really got back into it,” Duncan told reporters after the game. “Down the stretch, for a period there, it seemed like they got every whistle possible. That really changed the tides. We were playing tough defense, we were trying to make stops and push it back, and the whistle kept blowing. They kept going to the line and getting free points there. That’s them being aggressive, that’s them continuing to attack, and credit to them.”
The Thunder clawed its way to victory after trailing by 18 in the first half and by 15 at intermission. But were Duncan’s comments his own passive-aggressive way of blaming the officials for letting the Spurs’ lead evaporate?
OKC was fortunate to have a 31-18 free throw advantage go their way in Game 6. Stephen Jackson was also credited with a technical foul after stank-eying the Thunder bench on a made three in the third quarter, during which the Thunder outscored the Spurs 32-18. Sometimes getting to the line can be all it takes to light a spark for some guys. Duncan may have a point. If he’s making “that point.”
But don’t discredit what this stubborn Thunder squad pulled against this supposedly once-mighty Spurs team by saying it merely got some calls its way. OKC got a second-consecutive huge game from its Big Three — Russell Westbrook had 25 points, James Harden added 16 and had some huge shots late and Kevin Durant balled with 34 points and 14 boards in a game of which he played every second. The Thunder were simply more active than the Spurs were in the second half and got hot from deep at the right times. Even Duncan himself acknowledged that.
The Spurs, after starting off blazing hot with a vibrant 63 first-half points, went stagnant in the second half. This was a game of halves, and Duncan and Co. found themselves outscored by a livelier, younger and, frankly, hungrier OKC team, 59-36, in the second half. After scoring 21 points before the break, Tony Parker had just eight after that. And while San Antonio shot 55 percent in the first half, it was only 7-of-32 during Thunder’s explosive third quarter that got OKC — and, just as importantly, its crowd — back into it.
Yeah, the Thunder may have had a lot of calls go its way in the second half. But the Spurs weren’t putting up much of a fight anyway.
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