By Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times –
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Nasty worked for the San Antonio Spurs.
So did cutesy.
There was Manu Ginobili midway through the third quarter Tuesday night at the AT&T Center, flipping a behind-the-back pass with his left hand. Tony Parker received the ball in the corner and spotted up for a three-pointer that gave the Spurs a 20-point lead.
It was a freewheeling moment for a precision-oriented team that proved equally effective. San Antonio continued its rampage through the postseason with a 120-111 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
Not that there wasn’t some fourth-quarter drama.
The Thunder shaved a deficit that had been as large as 22 points to six with 5 minutes 40 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws by Russell Westbrook.
But the Spurs scored eight of the next 10 points, including two baskets by Parker, who finished with 34 points on 16-of-21 shooting. Ginobili added 20 points and Kawhi Leonard had 18 for San Antonio.
The tally that has the rest of the NBA covering its eyes: The Spurs have won 10 consecutive games in the playoffs and 20 games in a row overall, including the first two games of what was expected to be a taut series with the Thunder.
Game 3 is Thursday in Oklahoma City.
The only teams to enjoy more success to start the postseason were the 2001 and 1989 Lakers, when each won 11 games.
The Spurs were so comfortably ahead in the third quarter that Thunder Coach Scott Brooks ordered his team to foul notoriously poor free-throw shooter Tiago Splitter.
With the perturbed crowd encouraging him with a standing ovation at one point, Splitter made five of 10 free throws.
Kevin Durant (31 points), James Harden (30) and Westbrook (27) were dominant for the Thunder, though their teammates were barely a murmur with a combined 23 points.
The Spurs now hold the NBA record for longest winning streak extended in the playoffs and possess the fourth-longest stretch of sustained success in league history.
The only teams to match or exceed the Spurs’ winning streak were the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks (20 games), the 2008 Houston Rockets (22) and the 1971-72 Lakers (33). None of those streaks involved the playoffs.
It has been 48 days since the Spurs last lost, a 94-84 setback on April 11 to the Lakers. All it took was the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum grabbing a career-high 30 rebounds and Metta World Peace splurging for 26 points, his most in three seasons in a Lakers uniform.
San Antonio’s record has been flawless since a victory the following day over the Memphis Grizzlies. Not even the lockout-condensed schedule could present a stumbling block. The Spurs went 3-0 in a back-to-back-to-back situation April 16-18 and won games in consecutive days against the Clippers to close out the conference semifinals.