The San Antonio Spurs were determined to avoid a Game 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and did so in overtime last night. The final score was 112 – 107, dashing the home team’s dreams of meeting the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.
This is the first time in Spurs’ history that the dynasty team has been to the finals in two consecutive years. Recalling Thursday night’s game, Tim Duncan commented on why the veterans won against the Thunder. “We took something away from them and we made them react,” he said.
The last four minutes of the fourth quarter are where both teams provided some spectacular ball movement. First, Derek Fisher, the only player giving the Thunder its depth, had fouled Manu Ginobili, who made both free throws to give the Spurs a four-point lead. Fisher fouled again, this time providing Duncan two free throws with less than two and half minutes to go.
Russell Westbrook scored two field goals in an attempt to save the Thunder, and Duncan fouled Kevin Durant. The MVP successfully finished his two free throws, resulting the first tie in the fourth quarter with one minute to go.
Ginobili seemed to have finished the Thunder’s dream with a 3-pointer at 27 seconds left on the clock. This was followed by teammate Duncan cradling his head, a foreshadowing of what was to come within the next half hour. Westbrook succeeded in tying the game once again at 101 with 9.3 seconds left in the fourth following Durant tripping on his own feet and losing the ball.
The moment that Thunder fans were dreading almost happened as the game clock wound down. Ginobili’s jump shot was a miss, and a teammate had knocked in the ball at the rim but time had just run out. Five more minutes of play were left to determine the winner of Game 6.
Once again, Westbrook wasted a couple possessions, and the Thunder did not rely on everyone on the court. The two Thunder stars had 10 points between them, but only one of them was successful. Duncan alone outscored the Thunder in overtime. The Thunder had only five points from the bench throughout the whole game, all of them from Fisher.
Westbrook received his fifth personal foul from contact with Boris Diaw, who made one of his free throws with 15.6 seconds left. The crowd grew silent then, but they remained incredibly supportive. Westbrook stepped off the court in a late substitution and went straight to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. They shook hands and patted each other on the back amid cheers and applause.
The MVP Award has not been wasted, as Durant is this year’s playoffs leader in points. The Thunder were on their way to making a huge comeback with Westbrook’s successful recovery and gave it a valiant effort. However, in a close game, experience trumps athleticism. The Spurs were patient, and trusted one another. They now face a tenacious Heat at home this Thursday night. Fans can anticipate a thrilling series where history will be made, no matter who emerges victorious.
Commentary by Sibylla Chipaziwa