(The Sports Xchange) - Russell Westbrook scored 29 points and handed out 10 assists as the Oklahoma City Thunder outlasted the San Antonio Spurs 98-97 on Monday in Game 2 of the Western Conference semi-final and tied the best-of-seven series at one win apiece.
The series switches to Oklahoma City for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday before returning to San Antonio for the fifth game on May 10.
Kevin Durant, who had 28 points, canned a floating jump shot off an assist from Westbrook with 33 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a 96-91 lead but the Spurs responded with an Aldridge 3-pointer, just his second of the season.
Westbrook then made two free throws with 18.3 seconds left to push Oklahoma City’s lead back to four points, at 98-94.
Aldridge hit three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with 13.5 seconds left to bring the Spurs to within 98-97.
On the ensuing inbounds play, San Antonio’s Danny Green stole the ball from Durant and it was eventually passed in the corner to Patty Mills, who missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left. The two teams scrambled for the ball under the basket but the Spurs could not get off another shot.
Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams added 12 points apiece for the Thunder and Adams pulled down 17 rebounds.
Aldridge led the Spurs with a season-high 41 points while Kawhi Leonard had 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Manu Ginobili hit for 11 points for San Antonio, which lost for just the second time at home all season.
The Thunder flipped the script from its ragged Game 1 start by going right at San Antonio and building a 9-2 lead four minutes into the game.
Westbrook had seven of Oklahoma City’s first nine points while the Spurs floundered from the field in the early moments, missing seven layups and another shot five feet from the basket.
Oklahoma City’s lead expanded to as much as 13 points through the remainder of the quarter. The Spurs’ reserve players helped bring San Antonio to within nine points on a five occasions before a Ginobili 3-pointer with 1 second to play in the period cut the Thunder advantage to 29-21.
The Thunder had 12 free-throw attempts, and made eight of them, in the first quarter while San Antonio did not go to the line.
Three-pointers by Mills and Green in the first two minutes of the second quarter pulled the Spurs to within 29-27 and all but erased all the good early work by Oklahoma City.
Leonard hit his first basket of the game at the 8:13 mark of the quarter to tie the game at 33 and gave the Spurs their first lead since the first possession of the game, at 39-37, with a jumper a minute and a half later.
The rest of the quarter was evenly played with the Thunder taking a 56-53 advantage at halftime. Westbrook led Oklahoma City with 18 point and Durant added 13. Aldridge paced San Antonio with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting in 21 minutes of play.
Oklahoma City outshot the Spurs 56.4-48.9 percent and had a 23-14 edge in rebounding. San Antonio was just 4-of-12 on uncontested shots in the first half; it was 17-of-23 on such attempts in the first half of Game 1.
Seven straight points by Westbrook in the middle of the third quarter pushed the Thunder’s lead back to 11 points, at 75-64, at the 4:48 mark of the period.
But the Spurs surged back again, ending the quarter on a 12-2 run to cut the Oklahoma City lead to 77-76.
Durant scored five of the Thunder’s first seven points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter while the Spurs went almost five minutes without a point, resulting in an 85-76 Oklahoma City lead.
But Green knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to get San Antonio back to 85-82, setting the stage for a furious finish.
Editing by Peter Rutherford