- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Kevin Durant scored 25 points, Thabo Sefolosha added 12 and the Oklahoma City Thunder spoiled Gregg Popovich’s 1,000th game as San Antonio’s coach by beating the Spurs 78-76 on Monday night.

The Thunder didn’t lead until midway through the fourth quarter, but kept San Antonio to its season low in scoring and escaped when Tony Parker missed a 3-pointer from the left side in the closing seconds.

Popovich could only shrug with his palms of his hands pointed toward the sky as the clock struck zero.

Parker scored 28 points to lead San Antonio, and Tim Duncan had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Matt Bonner added 10 points.

Oklahoma City won for the fourth straight time at home.

Popovich became the 24th coach to reach 1,000 games and only the seventh to do it with one team. Only Phil Jackson (731) and Pat Riley (716) had more wins in their first 1,000 games than Popovich, who is 676-324.

But after a stellar start, San Antonio didn’t look much like the team with the second-best record in the Western Conference.

The Thunder, who trailed by 17 in the first quarter, took their first lead at 70-67 on Chucky Atkins’ 3-pointer from the left wing with 7:37 left. Durant pushed the edge to 76-72 with a jumper from the left wing, and the lead was back to four when Russell Westbrook answered Parker’s two free throws with another jumper at 2:19.

Popovich stood with his arms crossed as the Spurs’ chances slipped away, with Nenad Krstic snagging an offensive rebound in the final two minutes to let Oklahoma City drain the clock further.

The Thunder improved to 19-48, moving within one win of last season’s win total, by committing only three turnovers in the second half after a miserable start.

San Antonio capitalized on six early giveaways by the NBA’s most turnover-prone team to open an early 27-10 lead when Drew Gooden followed his putback dunk with a jumper from the left elbow to finish a string of eight straight Spurs points.

But then it was San Antonio that got careless with the ball. Parker and Duncan combined for seven of the Spurs’ nine turnovers in the second quarter, and the Thunder used a 17-2 burst to close the gap to 38-36 on Jeff Green’s layup with 2:52 left before halftime.

Duncan picked up a technical foul late in the stretch when Derrick Collins whistled the player for saying something to him after a missed jumper along the left baseline.

The Spurs then rebuilt their lead to 11 before allowing the Thunder to rally back and tie it at 63 on Durant’s jumper to open the fourth quarter.

Notes:@ Thunder F Desmond Mason, who had season-ending knee surgery in late January, has progressed far enough in his rehab that he has resumed regular shooting drills. He had been shooting free throws at practice while seated in a chair. … Ginobili, who was initially expected to miss two to three weeks with a stress reaction in his right ankle, has now been out a full month. “He’s going to miss the next couple of weeks probably _ the next week or two for sure,” Popovich said. … Durant said he hadn’t filled out an NCAA tournament bracket, but had an early upset pick in mind: 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth against UCLA _ Westbrook’s old team. “You never know. There’s so many good teams and obviously if you’re good, you make the tournament. But I think there’s going to be a lot of upsets,” Durant said, before adding about his alma mater, Texas: “Hopefully we go farther than a lot of people think we’re going to go.”

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