Spurs get ‘nasty’ to take 1-0 lead over Thunder
By PAUL J. WEBER
Posted May 28 2012 3:35AM
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Trailing in the fourth quarter, Gregg Popovich snarled an order in the huddle that the NBA Coach of the Year punctuated with a sharp and angry sweep of his hand.
“I want some nasty!”
But truthfully, Popovich was already getting what he really wanted: the San Antonio Spurs finally in a game they might actually lose.
Popovich’s caught-on-camera “nasty” command in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals is likely coming soon to T-shirts, Internet memes and the lexicon of the NBA playoffs for the foreseeable future. But after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98 on Sunday night for their 19th win in a row – tying the NBA record for longest winning streak kept alive in the playoffs – Popovich wasn’t flustered by the near-loss.
He was almost grateful for it.
“We wanted it about 15 games ago,” Popovich said. “At least I did.”
Manu Ginobili scored 26 points as the Spurs escaped a tantalizing near-upset for the young Thunder, who came closer than anyone to beating the Spurs for the first time in 46 days. But a nine-point lead didn’t last after the famously mercurial 63-year-old Popovich huddled his lagging team together in the fourth and told them to “get nasty.”
“I said that?” Popovich said afterward.
A nationally television audience heard it.
“The heat of the game, stuff comes up,” Popovich said. “So I talked to them about they’ve got to get a little bit uglier, get a little more nasty, play with more fiber and take it to these guys. Meaning you have to drive it, you have to shoot it.”
And when they did, the Thunder couldn’t keep up.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points. Russell Westbrook had 17, and insisted he was OK after taking a spill that was nasty in its own right – face first, bracing his fall with his hands and sitting under the basket for more than a minute while the entire Thunder bench walked across the court to check on their All-Star point guard.
“I shot good shots, made good passes,” Durant said. “Unfortunately, we lost.”
After being held to just 16 third-quarter points, San Antonio scored 39 in the fourth. Westbrook chalked it up to a defensive breakdown that “got out of hand” but it still left the Thunder in search of the road win they’ll need to in this series to reach the NBA finals for the first time since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2009.
Game 2 is Tuesday night.