OKLAHOMA CITY – San Antonio fought off Father Time, the league MVP and an injury to its best player to return to the NBA Finals.
The Spurs beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-107 in overtime Saturday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals to set up a rematch with the Miami Heat.
San Antonio will host Game 1 on Thursday night and will try to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss. San Antonio led Miami 3-2 before losing Game 6 in overtime, then dropping Game 7.
“People keep talking like we weren’t close to winning, but we were ready to win last year,” Spurs center Tim Duncan said. “We’re happy it’s the Heat again. We’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still.”
A trio of 30-somethings led the way for the Spurs. Duncan had 19 points and 15 rebounds, Boris Diaw scored 26 points and Manu Ginobili chipped in 15 points and six rebounds for the Spurs.
San Antonio pulled this one out despite All-Star point guard Tony Parker missing the entire second half and overtime with left ankle soreness.
“It’s just tough losing like this, man,” Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant said. “There’s not much more I can say.”
“They have a good team,” Durant said. “Tony Parker is not their whole team. You’ve seen games where he wasn’t playing and they still won. They’ve got a good system. They’ve got guys they can plug in, and they came in and made plays.”
Popovich said Parker had been struggling with the ankle since Game 4 of the series. The Spurs overcame it the way they have for more than a decade — with teamwork, passing and great performances by role players.
“We didn’t know how much Tony was hurt in his ankle,” Diaw said. “But we didn’t want to go to Game 7, and we didn’t know if he would be ready to play if we did or if he would be 100 percent, so we tried to get it over with tonight.”
It was the third-best playoff scoring effort of Diaw’s 11-year career and his best since 2006.
“Boris was amazing,” Duncan said. “He had an unbelievable game. He’s had a great series.”
Russell Westbrook had 34 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals, and MVP Kevin Durant added 31 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder. But Oklahoma City committed 20 turnovers that led to 33 points for the Spurs. Westbrook and Durant each had seven turnovers.
“We started settling for too many jump shots,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It just seemed like we couldn’t get enough good looks at the basket. Defensively, they just had us scrambling around.”
San Antonio also handled Serge Ibaka’s return from injury. Oklahoma City’s defensive star missed the first two games with a strained left calf, but he returned to help the Thunder win the next two games and tie the series.
The series featured five blowout wins by the home teams, but the closeout game was a gem. Oklahoma City overcame a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
“I have to be honest, this victory is really sweet because we know we played one hell of a team, and we take great satisfaction in that since they’re so special,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
In overtime, Duncan’s shot from the baseline rattled in to give the Spurs a 110-107 lead with 19 seconds to go.
Durant missed a good look at a 3-pointer, and the Spurs rebounded and went to the line. Diaw missed the first and made the second free throw to make it a four-point lead for the Spurs. Westbrook missed a wild 3-pointer, and the Spurs wrapped it up.
San Antonio led by 12 early in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder chipped away at the free throw line after getting the Spurs into foul trouble. Back-to-back baskets by Westbrook and Durant cut San Antonio’s lead to 93-91 with 4:01 to play, leading to the frantic final minutes.
Westbrook was fouled on a drive with 9.3 seconds to play. He made both free throws to tie the score 101-101. Ginobili’s fadeaway at the free-throw line against Westbrook missed, and the game went to overtime.
“They could have put us away to start the fourth quarter, but they didn’t and we forced the overtime,” Westbrook said. “Teams make runs. That’s the name of our game.”
Ginobili said the Thunder were a significant hurdle, and he expects them to be a roadblock in the future.
“They are a pretty good team,” he said. “They have so much talent, so much athleticism, so much future. They are a tough team.”