Thunder beat Spurs again, 96-95

Kevin Durant scored 31 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder continued to torment the San Antonio Spurs with a 96-95 victory Tuesday night.

The Thunder led by as much as 17 and denied the Spurs a playoff-clinching win after beating San Antonio for the second time this month. With eight games left, the Spurs lost their slim lead in the Southwest Division and fell into a first-place tie with Houston.

Russell Westbrook had 16 points and 10 assists for the Thunder, who fought off a furious rally from the Spurs to break a three-game losing streak and win in San Antonio for the first time since 2004.

The Spurs had a chance to win, but Michael Finley’s off-balance jumper as time expired clanked off the back of the rim. Tim Duncan scored 21.

San Antonio has lost two straight and will play five of its final eight games on the road, including another one at Oklahoma City next week. San Antonio still needs either a win or a Phoenix loss to clinch a playoff spot for the 12th straight year but could still be seeded anywhere from No. 2 to No. 8.

The Thunder seemed determined not to punch San Antonio’s playoff ticket.

Oklahoma City, which had won just once in the six games since beating the Spurs on March 16, built a 74-57 lead in the third before the Spurs came storming back. The Thunder’s lead shrunk to 94-93 with 1:11 left on a 3-pointer by Finley, but Nenad Krstic hit a jumper to push the lead back to three.

Duncan blocked a layup by Jeff Green with 13 seconds left, but the Spurs struggled to find a shooter after immediately pushing the ball up the floor and settled for Finley’s errant jumper as the buzzer sounded.

Manu Ginobili scored 17 points in his first start since December. Finley had 14 and Tony Parker had 11 for the Spurs.

Krstic and Green each had 16 for the Thunder.

San Antonio led by as much as eight in the first quarter before the more youthful Thunder—whose starting lineup has fewer years of NBA experience combined (8) than Duncan (11)—began exhausting the Spurs.

Kyle Weaver’s 3-pointer with 7:12 left in the second gave the Thunder their first lead since the opening minutes. From there, Oklahoma City went on a 10-3 run and held the Spurs without a field goal for more than five minutes to take a 51-40 lead.

Oklahoma City’s lead ballooned to 17 in the third on Durant’s jumper, but the Spurs rallied. Duncan answered with a layup on the other end to start a 9-2 run to end the quarter.

Joining the Thunder on the bench in street clothes was new addition Shaun Livingston, who signed a multiyear contract Tuesday after spending three weeks with their NBA Development team. The No. 4 pick out of high school in the 2004 draft, Livingston is trying to comeback from a gruesome knee injury with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007.

Livingston will practice with the team for the first time Thursday but may not make his debut until next week. Oklahoma City has just eight games remaining.

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