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NBA West Finals - Thunder tie series behind Westbrook's rampage


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- Russell Westbrook picked a good night to serve up one of the best playoffs performances of his budding NBA career.

Westbrook, the fleet-footed 6-foot-3 point guard out of UCLA, carved the San Antonio Spurs defense with a devastating 40 points and 10 assists effort to lead the OKC Thunder to a 105-92 Game 4 victory Tuesday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Game 4's rout, which followed OKC's 106-97 Game 3 romp, evened the Western Conference Finals at 2-2. Game 5 is Thursday night (Friday AM in Manila) at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, where the Spurs hope to rekindle the offensive fire that have disastrously waned on the road.

With their eyes set on putting a stranglehold of the best-of-7 series, the Spurs started quickly in Game 4, firing 8 unanswered points right after tip-off. But the Thunder, buoyed by a biting defense and a volatile offense, took control after one quarter, 26-20, before a 32-point second quarter gave them a 58-43 halftime lead.

The sluggish Spurs, who missed an astounding 50 of 83 field goals, got rocked some more after the intermission, and when Westbrook hammered down a dunk with only 4:35 left in the third period, the Thunder roared to a 27-point lead, 76-49, their biggest bulge of the evening.

The Spurs sliced the deficit to 12 early in the final stanza, but with their starters merely ogling from the bench, the Spurs second unit didn't have enough firepower to mount a full comeback and the Thunder separated themselves for good -- 96-77 -- with 5:40 to go.

"I thought everybody chipped in on defense. We used our length and athleticism to disrupt their flow on offense and Russell had just a monster game. He has enough energy to play back-to-backs on the same night," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told NBA.com.

The 25-year old Westbrook, now on his sixth year with OKC, showed the stuff that makes him a perennial All-Star. He nailed 12 of 24 field goals and all 14 of his free throws. He also had 3 steals in a terrific burst of brilliance on both ends of the floor.

Kevin Durant, the reigning league MVP, wasn't too shabby either, sinking 11 of 22 shots for 31 points. No other Thunder registered double figures in points, but with Serge Ibaka chipping in 9 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks, the Thunder had more than enough to neutralize the Spurs.

While OKC quickly gathered themselves after the 8-0 hiccup to open Game 4, the Spurs couldn't get anything going.

Tim Duncan went 3-for-8 for 9 points, Manu Ginobili went 2-for-8 for 4 points while Kawhi Leonard made only 3-of-9 field goals for 10. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw each had 14 but they didn't exactly light the arena on fire, 12 of 23 made shots combined with 5 turnovers.

Besides being slightly out rebounded, 42-41, the Spurs lost the assists battle, 22-17, and they coughed up more turnovers, 13-7. It's a recipe to lose any game, let alone a huge Game 4 of this nip and tuck series.

"We are playing in spurts and increments," Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard moaned to ESPN.com. "We have to play a whole game."

Yes, indeed. It looks like playing from pillar to post is the top requirement to derail the raging Thunder, who now head to San Antonio with a momentum the size of Texas.

Otherwise, it will be deja vu all over again for the Spurs. Just like the forgettable 2012 playoffs when they won the first 2 only to be swept in the next 4. (Homer D. Sayson)

Photo: Russell Westbrook (middle) eluded all the defensive schemes the Spurs threw on him as the OKC Thunder seized Game 4, 105-92, to even the Western Conference Finals at 2-2.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.


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