SAN ANTONIO — Gregg Popovich’s “I want some nasty!” is fast becoming the catchphrase of the NBA playoffs. It’s eminently quotable, brash and an overnight splash.
In other words, it’s everything the San Antonio Spurs are not.
They’ve also heard far worse in timeouts from the NBA Coach of the Year, who bellowed his now-famous and fuming marching orders that jumpstarted a fourth-quarter rally, extended a history-matching winning streak to 19 and left the Oklahoma City Thunder stunned heading into Game 2 of the Western Conference final Tuesday night.
“You’ve got to watch Pop — he’s good at turning that microphone on and off,” Spurs forward Stephen Jackson said Monday. “You don’t hear some of the stuff he says.”
All the Thunder mostly heard Monday were questions about their costly collapse down the stretch.
Oklahoma City started the fourth quarter leading — a rare feat against the Spurs in the past 47 days, which is how long it’s been since their last loss. Going up 2-0 would put the Spurs among just three others teams in NBA history with winning streaks of 20 games or longer.
It alwo would reak the record for longest winning streak extended in the playoffs, a mark the Spurs now share with the 2001 Lakers.
“We really don’t care,” guard Manu Ginobili said. “We are close — seven games — from accomplishing something way better than a streak. [The streak] is happening, it’s fine. But we always think about next time and how tough it’s going to be.”
It’s the first time the Thunder have trailed in a playoff series since being down 1-0 in the West final last season. They answered with a Game 2 win in Dallas then saw their season spiral to an end with three straight losses.
The easy narrative after Sunday’s loss was how the Spurs — awakened by Popovich growling at them to start playing “nasty” during a timeout that was caught on camera — erased a nine-point deficit through sheer intensity and experience. The Thunder, however, rattled off their explanations Monday at what went wrong.
Among them was coach Scott Brooks acknowedging a mistake by keeping forward Serge Ibaka, the runner-up in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year balloting, on the bench in the fourth quarter. That’s when the Spurs scored 39 points and shot 12 of 16, after the Thunder held San Antonio to just 16 points in the third.
Brooks said he’ll beat himself up over not putting his defensive ace back in the game, while explaining how sidelining Ibaka seemed the right idea at the time. After all, Brooks said, keeping Ibaka out and going with a smaller lineup worked in the previous playoff series against the defending champion Mavericks and the Lakers.