The Oklahoma City Thunder finally found a way to slow down the San Antonio Spurs. It still wasn't enough to beat them.
Tony Parker had 34 points and eight assists, Manu Ginobili added 20 points and the Spurs stayed perfect in the playoffs with a 120-111 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday night.
Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Russell Westbrook had 27 points and eight assists and James Harden rebounded from a rough Game 1 to score 30 points for the Thunder, who have lost two straight for the first time since early April. Oklahoma City dropped to 15-4 in games after losses this season.
"There are no moral victories for us," Durant said. "We were down. We dug ourselves a hole. We did what we normally do, which is fight all game, and we lost."
The Thunder trailed by as many as 22 points in the third quarter and by 16 when coach Scott Brooks resorted to intentionally fouling Spurs center Tiago Splitter, a 32 percent free-throw shooter in the playoffs entering the game.
Splitter went 5 for 10 from the line over a 54-second span before Spurs coach Gregg Popovich replaced him with Tim Duncan, and Oklahoma City trailed by the same margin — 16 — that it did when Brooks called for the "Hack-a-Splitter" strategy.
The Spurs seemed to lose their offensive flow after that, and the Thunder rallied in the fourth quarter.
"There's a reason why you do it, to kill the rhythm," Parker said. "I think it got us out of our rhythm."
Oklahoma City got within six points with just over 5 minutes to play. But Parker, Ginobili and Tim Duncan helped San Antonio finish off the Thunder.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Oklahoma City.
"We're upset about that loss," Durant said. "We've got to go home and regroup and watch film, see how we can get better."
The Thunder are 5-0 on their raucous home court in the playoffs. But only 14 teams in NBA playoff history have overcome 2-0 deficits to win a series, and the Spurs show no signs of letting the Thunder back in it.
"First, we've got to worry about Game 3," Westbrook said. "Regardless of what's going on with this last game or the next game, we've got to worry about Game 3 and come in with the same mindset and try to get a win."
The Spurs set an NBA record with their 20th consecutive victory bridging the regular season and the playoffs. They came in sharing the longest such streak with the 2000-01 Lakers, who won 19 straight before losing to Philadelphia in the first game of the finals.
Those Lakers went on to win the championship and Parker's performance is yet another reason to think the Spurs will do the same.
Guided by their All-Star point guard, San Antonio shredded Oklahoma City's defense with pinpoint passes for three quarters. The Spurs were shooting 63 percent from the field and 64 percent from 3-point range at one point in the third quarter.
Parker went 16 for 21 from the field, including a 3-pointer.
"Tony's been great all year," Popovich said. "He's been really focused the entire season."
San Antonio picked up where it left off from the 39-point fourth quarter that turned Game 1 on Sunday. With sharp passes and hot shooting, the Spurs jumped to a 19-9 lead after the Thunder missed six of their first seven shots and had three turnovers in the first 4 minutes.
The Spurs shot 58 percent (22 of 38) and had 13 assists in the first half. They also cut down their turnovers, committing only six in the first half after giving away 14 in the first two quarters of Game 1.
San Antonio resumed picking apart Oklahoma City's defense with precision passes after the break, scoring on five straight possessions. The biggest cheer from the crowd came after Ginobili flipped a behind-the-back pass to Parker in the corner for another 3 and the lead ballooned to 78-58.
"We have seen what we can do when we play as a team," Harden said. "We fought hard, but it was too much of a deficit to come back (from) late in the game."
The Spurs missed 12 of 15 shots during one stretch, but Parker hit an off-balance, high-arcing jumper with 3:39 left for a 107-96 lead and San Antonio controlled the game from there.
"Our guys played hard," Brooks said. "Unfortunately, we came away with nothing the last few days."