OKLAHOMA CITY - Kevin Durant had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder claimed a spot in the NBA Finals by beating the San Antonio Spurs, 107-99, Wednesday night.
Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed Game 6 of the Western Conference finals by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point halftime deficit before pulling ahead to stay in the fourth.
“It’s an amazing moment for [Durant] to play like this in this moment, in this setting, and I wasn’t going to take him out,’’ Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Durant grabbed the final rebound, dribbled the ball across halfcourt, and raised his right fist to celebrate with a sold-out crowd. The franchise will play for the NBA title for the first time since 1996, before relocating from Seattle.
“Our guys stuck together - that’s what families do,’’ Brooks said.
Tony Parker had 29 points and 12 assists for San Antonio, but only 8 points and two assists came in the second half. Tim Duncan chipped in 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Stephen Jackson scored 23.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, getting 9 of their first 13 points on free throws as the fouls started to pile up for San Antonio - six on the defensive end and three on the offensive end in the first seven minutes.
Derek Fisher and James Harden hit 3-pointers in a three-possession span to increase the lead to 99-93 with 3:13 remaining, and Oklahoma City held on from there.
Jackson, who had made his previous six 3-pointers, and Parker both missed threes that would have gotten the Spurs within 103-102 in the final minute.
“In many ways we overachieved this season,’’ Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I couldn’t be more satisfied with their effort.’’
Durant celebrated even before the final buzzer, hugging his family seated courtside after a foul was called with 14 seconds remaining.
The Thunder became the NBA’s 15th team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a seven-game series, doing it against a team that had won 20 games in a row.
“I never want to take those moments for granted,’’ Durant said. “I know it’s just one step closer to our dreams, but it felt good.’’
The Spurs put up quite a fight, at least for the first half.
Parker, who had been largely bottled up ever since the Thunder put 6-foot-7-inch defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha on him in Game 3, was back at his best right from the start. Parker made seven of his first nine shots, wiggling into the lane for runners and layups while also setting up his teammates.
Parker had a hand in the Spurs’ first 12 baskets, making seven on his own and assisting on the other five, before Kawhi Leonard and Jackson followed his 3-point play by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers for a 34-16 advantage in the final two minutes of the first quarter.
The Spurs were 9 for 15 on 3-pointers in the first half, many of them wide open, and maintained their lead right up until Durant’s 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left got Oklahoma City within 63-48 at halftime.
The Thunder stormed right back with an 11-2 run to start the third quarter and eventually pulled ahead after Durant’s 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 79-77 with 1:41 left in the period.
After shooting 55 percent in the first half, San Antonio went only 7 for 22 in the third quarter and clung to an 81-80 lead heading into the fourth.
San Antonio missed nine of 11 3-pointers in the second half.