for this game

Spurs hold off Thunder's late rally to win sixth straight

Dec 15, 2008 - 3:38 AM By Brian Guerra PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- The San Antonio Spurs' December surge continued on Sunday night - though they had to sweat it out against the league's worst team to keep their winning streak alive.

The Spurs survived a fourth-quarter rally by the Oklahoma City Thunder, eventually prevailing for their sixth win in a row, 109-104. Tony Parker registered 22 points and seven assists, scoring six big points in the last two minutes to seal the victory.

It had the makings of a San Antonio blowout early, but Oklahoma City made a game of it late. The Spurs led by as many as 26 before the Thunder - who have now lost seven straight - mounted an improbable comeback.

"We had a big lead, but they played good in the second half. They made shots," Parker said. "You never want to be in that situation, because it's always dangerous. At the end, it was ugly, but we got the win, and that's the most important thing."

Second-year players Jeff Green and Kevin Durant certainly did their part, carrying the Thunder with 33 and 28 points. No other Oklahoma City starter scored more than four.

"We just started off this one a little sluggish," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "The Spurs are just too good a team to hand a huge lead like that."

The Thunder scored 35 in the fourth quarter, turning a rout into a nailbiter. They pulled to as close as two points on Kevin Durant's layup with 29 seconds remaining, but the Spurs immediately answered. Tim Duncan found a streaking Manu Ginobili for a cross-court pass and the All-Star Argentine buried a layup, drew a foul and completed the three-point play.

"I lofted it up, and was just happy I completed the pass," Duncan said. "It's unbelievable that he got the shot off."

The Thunder staged an 8-0 run early in the fourth to cut their deficit to single digits, then gradually whittled away at it.

Late in the fourth, with the Spurs up by five at 97-92, Ginobili was fouled while hitting a falling away shot at the free-throw line. He made the free throw for an eight-point lead, but Nick Collison completed a 3-point play of his own to slice the lead was back to five.

Green answered on the other end, driving by Ginobili for an emphatic one-handed dunk with 1:14 left in the game to trim the lead to 102-99.

But Parker answered with a 17-footer with under a minute left to make it a two-possession game. Durant, who led all players with 13 rebounds, tried to throw up a quick floater, but Duncan was there to reject it and save it inbounds to Parker, who was fouled on the other end. He hit both free throws for a 106-99 lead.

Duncan was glad one finally went his way.

"They shot the ball incredibly well," he said. "They were making shots on me all night, and I finally got a finger on one."

Green wouldn't let his team fade though, hitting a 3-pointer to cut it to 106-102. But even after Durant's layup moments later, the Thunder could never quite get over the hump as the Spurs hung on.

"We played hard in the first half, but I think we really stepped it up in the second," Durant said. "It's a tough game for us, but we have to move forward."

The game looked like a dismantling in the making early. After the first 12 minutes, the Spurs held a 39-19 advantage, setting a season high for first-quarter points. Parker's jumper gave the Spurs a hefty 58-32 lead with 4:04 left in the second quarter. Green scored seven as part of an 11-1 run to trim the lead to 59-43 with 22 seconds left in the first half.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the lead wasn't necessarily a blessing.

"It's the worst gift a team can get," he said. "This is the NBA, and there's a 24-second clock. Rarely, rarely does it stay like that. It doesn't matter what a team's record is or who you're playing."

The Spurs' 3-point shooting cooled off considerably in the second half. After making 8-of-14 in the first half, they were only 1-of-9 in the second.

Duncan collected 20 points and 11 boards for the Spurs.

For a team struggling to get its third win of the season, Green said he liked how his team battled, adding they "didn't panic, didn't back down and stuck together."

Brooks agreed.

"The last three quarters, the way we played in the last three, that's how we need to play all the time," Brooks said. "If we stay together and learn to trust each other, we are going to have a breakthrough."