2012 NBA Playoffs Round 3 Update: 6/4 – James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder Top San Antonio Spurs 108-103 to take 3-2 Series Lead


The hero in the fourth quarter for Oklahoma City wasn’t either of the dynamic duo, Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, it was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and third leg to the Thunder’s tripod, James Harden.

Harden scored 12 of his 20 points, and hit all three attempts from downtown, in the final period to led OKC past the Spurs on Monday night to a 108-103 Game 5 victory.

After losing back-to-back games in Oklahoma City, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sensed his team needed a change and tweaked San Antonio’s lineup in Game 5 by sitting Daniel Green and inserting Ginobili into the starting role.

Pop’s move seemed to be working early on as Ginobili did a great job of setting the tone and attacking the basket, getting to the foul line and sinking all three of his free-throws, helping the Spurs gain an early 8-2 advantage and later extending the lead to 15-8 after the first six minutes of play.

OKC however, wasn’t impressed with Popovich’s strategy and showed that despite their youth and inexperience, they can overcome any early problems by going on a 9-0 run to take their first lead of the game. They closed out the quarter on a 18-6 spurt overall after trailing by seven points halfway through the opening period.

Ginobili knocked down a 3-ball to cut the Spurs deficit down to four points, 40-36, with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter but the Thunder responded with another spurt and took a 50-36 advantage, capped off by Harden’s conventional 3-point play, with 2:08 left in the period. San Antonio fought back a bit in the remaining two minutes and shrunk OKC’s lead to 52-44 heading into halftime.

With their backs against the wall, the Spurs came out scrapping in the third quarter and went on a huge 18-4 run to reclaim the lead, 62-56, and more importantly, the game’s momentum — it’s just too bad they could sustain it. Trailing 71-70 with 2:31 remaining in the period, the Thunder came roaring back and closed out the quarter on an 11-1 run led by Westbrook who had six points in the spurt.

San Antonio came within two points of the lead as they trailed 101-99 with just under two minutes remaining in the final period but Oklahoma City pulled away down the stretch thanks to James Harden 3-point dagger that essentially sealed the game.

Harden’s 3-pointer put the Thunder up 106-101 with 0:28 remaining but the Spurs still had a fighters chance thanks to Ginobili who came down, converted a lay-up, and forced a turnover on the next OKC possession to give the ball back to San Antonio with 0:15 left and only down three points.

Ginobili didn’t have anymore tricks up his sleeve however and missed the game-tying 3-point shot with a couple ticks still left on the game clock.

After two intentional fouls by the San Antonio, Durant went to the foul-line and sank both free-throws to wrap up the 108-103 Thunder victory.

Durant led OKC with 27 points — 22 in the second half — and shot 53 percent (10-0f-19) from the field overall. Westbrook chipped in with a double-double performance of 23 points and 12 assists while also adding four rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot to his stat line. The remaining trio of starters —  Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha — combined to shoot 50 percent (7-of-14) from the field for 18 points while grabbing 19 of the Thunders 34 team rebounds.

Key reserve players, Daequan Cook and Nick Collison, collectively were a perfect six-for-six from the field for 14 points. Cook did the most damage in the shortest amount of time as he hit all three of his shots, including both 3-point attempts, in just four minutes of play. Derek Fisher rounded out the Oklahoma City scorers with six points.

Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with a game-high 34 points while adding seven assists, six boards and two steals in 38 minutes of action. Tim Duncan shot an impressive 70 percent (7-of-10) from the field in the game and posted a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Point guard Tony Parker and reserve Stephen Jackson combined for 33 points while the remaining starters, Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw, scored nine points collectively on three-0f-nine shooting overall. Leonard, the rookie swingman from San Diego State, also pulled down 10 boards in the contest.

After sweeping every other opponent in this year’s playoffs and compiling a 20-game win streak dating back to the regular-season, the Spurs have now lost three games in a row (longest losing streak of 2011-2012 season) and face the brink of elimination.

Oklahoma City can clinch the series on their home court Wednesday night as they host Game 6. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 PM (ET).