Revived OKC eyeing road win vs. San Antonio

Celtics forward Paul Pierce is double-teamed by Heat forward Shane Battier (rear) and guard Dwyane Wade early in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Finals series. Miami, which was again playing without injured power forward Chris Bosh, was trying to go up three games to one. The game, in Boston's TD Garden, ended too late for this edition. CHARLES KRUPA / AP
Celtics forward Paul Pierce is double-teamed by Heat forward Shane Battier (rear) and guard Dwyane Wade early in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Finals series. Miami, which was again playing without injured power forward Chris Bosh, was trying to go up three games to one. The game, in Boston's TD Garden, ended too late for this edition. CHARLES KRUPA / AP
Posted: June 04, 2012

In the span of three days, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs as many times as they had in the last three years. And now the Western Conference finals are suddenly up for grabs.

What once seemed like the continuation of one of the most dominant runs in NBA history has turned into a genuine toss-up of a series after the Thunder stopped San Antonio's perfect stretch with two convincing victories in half a week, including Saturday night's 109-103 victory in Game 4 in Oklahoma City.

With the Western Conference finals tied at 2 games each, Game 5 is Monday night in San Antonio.

Oklahoma City needs at least one road win to advance, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Sunday there's no time like the present.

"We have a great opportunity in Game 5," Brooks said.

Seldom have the Thunder been able to say that when they faced the Spurs.

Since James Harden joined Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in 2009, the Thunder had been 2-8 against San Antonio heading into this series. Now they return to Texas with a chance to hand the Spurs three straight losses for the first time all season.

"We've just got to go down there with the mind-set that we're going to play hard every possession, play together like we've been playing these last few games, and we'll see what happens," said Durant, who is averaging 29 points this series after scoring 36 in Game 4 on Saturday. "We've just got to keep believing, man. We'll be fine."

Spurs players didn't meet with reporters Sunday. Coach Gregg Popovich, back at Spurs headquarters trying to solve his team's first skid since April 9-11, said their attitude hasn't changed from when they were winning 20 straight games.

Also not likely to change much are the defensive looks the Spurs threw at the Thunder on Saturday. That's because, as far as Popovich is concerned, there is little to plan for when three typically unheralded offensive players shoot a combined 22 of 25 for 49 points.

That's what Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and Nick Collison did in Game 4, giving the Thunder a rare dose of balance on a team that leaned on its Big Three for nearly 70 percent of its scoring before this series. Ibaka was especially unstoppable, going 11 for 11 and finishing just one basket shy of the most perfect-shooting playoff game in NBA history.

"Maybe they'll do it again, but I don't think so," Popovich said. "We'll play the same defense, and if they don't shoot as well it won't be because of our defense. It'll be because they don't do as well."

Then there's Durant. Popovich called him "arguably the best player on the planet" on Sunday after the three-time NBA scoring champion turned in the most magnificent playoff game of his career, scoring 18 in the fourth quarter in the breakout game the Thunder were waiting for this series.

LeRoy Ellis dies at 72

LeRoy Ellis, 72, who played 14 years in the NBA after a standout career at St. John's, has died of prostate cancer. St. John's announced on Sunday that he died Saturday in Portland, Ore., after a long battle with cancer.

Mr. Ellis, a Brooklyn native, played at St. John's from 1959 to 1962. He still holds the school single-season record for rebounding with an average of 16.5 in his junior year, and the record for most rebounds in a game with 30 against NYU on Dec. 30, 1961.

He was drafted sixth overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962. Ellis appeared in 1,048 NBA games with the Lakers, Baltimore, Portland, and the 76ers. He posted career averages of 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, and was a member of the Lakers' 1972 championship team.

- Associated Press

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