SAN ANTONIO • This is more like it, more like what fans were led to expect from a down-to-the-last-possession battle between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, two of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s heavyweights, with a little controversy thrown in on the side.
Oklahoma City laid a colossal egg in the opening game of their Western Conference semi-final series against San Antonio on Saturday but roared back with a vengeance in Game 2, showing doubters they are not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the Spurs by outlasting San Antonio for a 98-97 win on Monday.
The result evened 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.
Russell Westbrook scored 29 points and handed out 10 assists, and Kevin Durant added 28 points as the Thunder handed San Antonio just their second loss at home this season and their first defeat in six play-off games.
"It was an up-and-down game - the whole game was a grind-out," Durant said. "I don't really know what happened that last minute. I just know we came out on top.
"We have to get back to the drawing board and see how we can get better. We know San Antonio are going to come out with a lot of energy and desperation in Game 3, so we have to match it."
Durant 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 a LaMarcus Aldridge three-pointer.
Westbrook made two free throws with 18.3 seconds left to push Oklahoma City's lead back to 98-94.
Aldridge, who finished with a season-high 41 points, hit three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt with 13.5 seconds left to bring the Spurs 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 three-pointer with two seconds left.
The teams scrambled for the rebound under the basket, but the Spurs could not get off another shot.
'We got a really good effort from everybody, and we were fortunate to close up the game the way we did," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "Being out of a timeout and having a hard time inbounding the ball, we got fortunate. We did a lot of good things, and there are things we can get better at, but it's only one game."
After the game, NBA crew chief Ken Mauer said that following a review of the inbounds play, an offensive foul should have been called on Thunder guard Dion Waiters before he inbounded the ball ahead of the last sequence. Waiters pushed Spurs guard Manu Ginobili before passing the ball to Durant.
"On the floor, we didn't see a foul on the play," Mauer said.
"However, upon review, we realise and we agree that we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It's a play we have never seen before, ever."
If a foul had been called, the Spurs would have been given possession of the ball for a final shot attempt.
Mills said he was rushed at the end but had a good look at the final shot.
"I didn't know how much time I had, but I just missed the shot," he said.
"Everything happened so quickly, and we were just trying to get a hold of the ball and make something happen. Offensively, we moved the ball better in Game 1 and had more uncontested shots."
Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams added 12 points apiece for the Thunder, and Adams pulled down 17 rebounds.
Kawhi Leonard had 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting for San Antonio, and Ginobili hit for 11 points.