RAUL DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Russell Westbrook smiled as he walked off the court in San Antonio, blowing a kiss to a spectator and waving at the few Oklahoma City Thunder fans in attendance.
The joyful tidings were a drastic change from the scowling, screaming, chest-thumping passion Westbrook showed after essentially walking into the Spurs’ home on Christmas and kicking aside their presents.
Westbrook had 34 points and 11 assists, and ignited a decisive run in the fourth quarter to help Oklahoma City beat San Antonio 114-106 on Thursday in a fiery rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals.
“Regardless of what’s going on, like I said before and I’m going to keep saying it, my job is to attack,” Westbrook said.
He led the Thunder to their sixth straight regular-season victory over the defending NBA champions in the first meeting between the teams since San Antonio topped Oklahoma City in six games on the way to a fifth title.
The Thunder were without reigning MVP Kevin Durant, and the Spurs were missing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but there was still plenty of firepower thanks to Oklahoma City’s emotional point guard.
Westbrook was 14 for 28 from the field and had five rebounds and five steals in a fevered performance over 35 minutes.
“You’ve just got to rally behind him,” said Thunder guard Anthony Morrow, who had 15 points. “He’s a leader, natural born. He comes out there, he plays hard.”
Serge Ibaka had 21 points, including going 3 for 4 on 3-pointers for Oklahoma City (14-16). Steven Adams added 16 points and 15 rebounds to offset San Antonio center Tiago Splitter matching his season-high with 14 points.
It was a physical rematch between the rivals, with referees having to separate Kendrick Perkins and Manu Ginobili in the first half, and Westbrook and Cory Joseph in the second.
“I thought they outplayed us almost in every facet of the game,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “When somebody retrieves 50 percent of their shots, you can’t say you’re focused or playing competitive in any way, shape or form.
“When you add turnovers to that and missed assignments defensively, it’s a pitiful performance.”
Westbrook wasn’t in a festive mood despite standing among many fans wearing Santa hats, and “Happy Holidays” messages emblazoned on the stanchions of both baskets.
The Spurs rallied while Westbrook sat for six minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters.
Ginobili leapt and feigned a pass right, feeding Splitter on the left side for a layup and a 77-75 lead to close the quarter.
Westbrook made two contested layups upon his return to tie the game at 86, sparking a 20-7 run that gave Oklahoma City a 102-93 lead with 3 minutes remaining. Westbrook had 15 points in the run.
“He does what he does night in and night out,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “He attacks the rim relentlessly. He gets to the free throw line. He had some open looks for their shooters. He did it all for his team.
“He carried them and he led them pretty much the whole way. He took over in the fourth quarter.”
Matt Bonner had 17 points to lead seven players in double figures for San Antonio (18-12), which has lost five of six.
Tim Duncan had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Spurs. Duncan left with 4:31 remaining, walking gingerly and grabbing the brace on his left knee, but returned 2 minutes later.
Thunder: Oklahoma City, which ranks second in the league in rebounding at 45.6 per game, outrebounded San Antonio 47-38. … The Thunder were playing on Christmas for the fifth straight season. … Westbrook has scored 20-plus points in 14 straight games, the longest streak of his career. Rookie F Mitch McGary (left leg) sat out along with Durant.
Spurs: San Antonio has 18 games in December, which will tie the franchise record for the most played in the month. The December schedule includes seven back-to-back games. … Duncan has played in 1,279 career games, surpassing former Lakers forward A.C. Green for 19th on the NBA career list. Ex-Knicks big man Charles Oakley is 18th at 1,282. … Duncan took a hard fall while attempting to block Westbrook’s shot with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter. After staying down for nearly a minute, Duncan rose and immediately began complaining because a foul was called against him. … San Antonio used its 18th starting lineup.
Thunder: Host Charlotte on Friday.
Spurs: Visit New Orleans on Friday.
HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU
Westbrook twice stared down Popovich after providing the Thunder with an emotional lift that led the Spurs to call timeout. He initially turned toward Popovich after assisting on a 3-pointer by Morrow. Westbrook then stood at midcourt screaming in celebration as the Spurs coach called timeout with his team behind 46-40 with 4:12 remaining in the first half. Westbrook later hit a jumper over Duncan and Tony Parker, hitting the floor after getting bumped without a foul being called. Westbrook rose in defiance and banged his chest with a fist twice as Popovich called a timeout.
Popovich said Spurs guard Patty Mills, who has missed the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery, is cleared to play but that he is holding him out to ensure he is completely healthy. The 6-foot guard from Australia provided San Antonio with an offensive spark last season, especially in the NBA Finals, with his 3-point shooting.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.