Australian duo Patty Mills and Aron Baynes have helped ignite a late charge and lead the San Antonio Spurs to victory in game one of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals.
The Spurs defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-105 in San Antonio.
The Thunder struggled early and, at the start of the third quarter, trailed the Spurs 70-59, but 19 combined points from Thunder stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant brought them even with San Antonio late in the third period.
“I didn’t think we reacted very well to their physicality,” said San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, explaining the Thunder’s run.
Popovich went to his bench, calling on Mills to replace point guard Tony Parker and Baynes to give veteran All-Star centre Tim Duncan a rest.
The little-used New Zealand-born forward Baynes, going head-to-head with Kiwi centre Steven Adams, scored with a reverse lay-up, grabbed a defensive rebound and drew a charge on Durant.
The Spurs’ veteran guard Manu Ginobili was electrifying, scoring two quick baskets during the period.
By the end of the third quarter, the Spurs were up 89-82, staving off the Thunder and setting the team up for the easy victory.
“Sometimes it comes down to just making shots,” Popovich said.
“It’s not really about one individual. It’s how a team performs.”
Mills finished with five points and two assists while Baynes had two points and one rebound.
Adams had four points, two rebounds and one blocked shot.
Duncan finished with 27 points and seven rebounds.
The winner of the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals will take on the victor of the Eastern Conference combatants the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers lead 1-0 after a 107-96 win on Sunday.