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News » Spurs fall into tie for 1st with loss to Thunder


Spurs fall into tie for 1st with loss to Thunder


Spurs fall into tie for 1st with loss to Thunder
SAN ANTONIO - The revelation came midway through the 2007-08 season, Kevin Durant's rookie year in the NBA.

Until then, Durant had been willing to settle for any three-point shooting opportunity that presented itself.

But suddenly, the former Longhorn realized how much more effective he could become by using his soft touch and uncommon length closer to the basket.

The rest is, well, take Tuesday night for example. Durant scored 31 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Spurs 96-95. He attempted just two three-point shots, hitting one.

The 6-foot-9-inch Durant converted 12 of 19 shots overall. Most of them were released over shorter defenders - Michael Finley, Manu Ginobili and Ime Udoka.

That's Durant, willing to evolve.

"Watching Kevin get better is a joy," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "He has a beautiful shot, and we challenged him to take some focus off the long-range shot, trying to hit the home run, and focus on shooting from all parts of the floor. He has the length to shoot over just about anyone."

Though Durant takes fewer three-point shots than he once did, he is more accurate. He has converted 43 percent of his three-point attempts this season, after hitting 28.8 last season.

Durant scored 14 points in the first quarter Tuesday, but a collision during the period left him with a sore right hip that limited his effectiveness the rest of the game.

Even so, Durant and the Thunder (21-53) were good enough to improve to 2-1 against the Spurs this season by earning just their seventh victory on the road.

Durant had sufficient help, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic each scoring 16 points. Westbrook made 10 assists, the final one on a 22-foot shot by Krstic that gave the Thunder a 96-93 edge with 51.6 seconds left.

"Coming into this building where the Spurs won (four) championships, and to get a win, it's a real confidence builder," Durant said.

The Spurs (48-26) trailed by 17 midway through the third quarter. They maneuvered back into contention with an 11-0 push.

Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 21 points and 12 rebounds. He tipped in his own missed shot with 36 seconds remaining, leaving the Thunder with a one-point lead.

Then Duncan blocked a shot by Green with 14 seconds left, giving the Spurs a chance to pull ahead.

But Ginobili mishandled the ball, and the Spurs scrambled to get off a final shot. Finley missed from 19 feet.

The Spurs are struggling to gain traction with eight games remaining before the playoffs. They are tied with Houston for third place in the Western Conference, a half game behind Denver. The Spurs secured a playoff berth despite the loss.

Ginobili (17 points) is still trying to regain proper form four games into his return from a stress reaction in his right fibula. He missed 19 games.

The Spurs have relied heavily on the three-point shot this season, ranking third in the NBA in accuracy, but they hit only 8 of 25 against the Thunder and 7 of 29 Sunday during a loss at New Orleans. They've had other poor shooting games recently.

"Knocking down shots is really important in the NBA, and we're not doing it," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We have things we need to improve. We're picking a bad time to be spotty, that's for sure."

Note: Durant plans to attend summer school in Austin. Durant, who played one season for the Longhorns before leaving for the NBA, might only attend the first semester at UT, as he did last summer, because of Basketball obligations.

At this rate, he will get that degree in what, 2028?

"That's what it's looking like," a smiling Durant said before the Thunder faced the Spurs on Tuesday. "No, probably in like 10 years."

Durant is determined to graduate, even if his hair is gray when he walks across the stage.

"I promised my mother," Durant said.

mrosner@statesman.com; 445-3958


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 2, 2009

 

 
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