OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The San Antonio Spurs dug deep to score a thrilling 112-107 overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to advance to the NBA Finals and a championship rematch against the Miami Heat.
With point guard Tony Parker sitting out the second half owing to a sore ankle, the visiting Spurs relied on their deep bench before turning to evergreen power forward Tim Duncan in overtime to clinch a win that gave them the Western Conference finals series 4-2.
A frantic comeback keyed by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook allowed Oklahoma City to erase a 12-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, with two free throws by Westbrook tying the game 101-101 at the end of regulation. The tight struggle broke the pattern of the series, which had seen the home team win comfortably over the first five games by an average victory margin of 20 points.
Duncan, however, made it comfortable for San Antonio at the end, scoring seven points in a row in the closing minutes of overtime after trailing 105-103, receiving the ball down low and delivering a master lesson on post-up basketball to premier shot blocker Serge Ibaka.
"We wanted it badly," said the 38-year-old, who kept backing his way in toward the hoop. "They put it inside to me matched up against Ibaka, and I did what I could. I tried to neutralise his jumping and his blocked shots. I just tried to get underneath him and use my size to get over the top of him."
The virtuoso overtime performance by Duncan gave him 19 points in the game along with a game-high 15 rebounds. Bench player Boris Diaw led San Antonio with 26 points while fellow reserve Manu Ginobili scored 15 points. Westbrook led the Thunder with 34 points and Kevin Durant added 31 for Oklahoma City.
Bench players accounted for 51 points for the Spurs, while the Thunder only had five players score in the game, with Derek Fisher's five points the only Thunder scoring coming from a non-starter.
"We fought as hard as we could all night," said NBA Most Valuable Player Durant. "We left it all out there. They made plays down the stretch and we didn't."
The Spurs, who lost a heartbreaking seven-game Finals last year against Miami, will host LeBron James and the Heat in Game One in San Antonio on Thursday.
"It's unbelievable to regain that focus after that devastating loss we had last year, but we're back here and we're excited about it," said Duncan. "We've got four more to win and we'll do it this time."