OKLAHOMA CITY — The San Antonio Spurs are back in the NBA Finals, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-107 in overtime on Saturday night in Game 6 to set up a rematch with the Miami Heat.
Tim Duncan had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Spurs, who will play host to Game 1 on Thursday night as they try to avenge last year’s heartbreaking seven-game loss.
Boris Diaw scored 26 points for the Spurs, who won despite point guard Tony Parker missing the entire second half and OT with left ankle soreness.
Russell Westbrook had 34 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals, and Kevin Durant added 31 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder. Oklahoma City overcame a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Kawhi Leonard added 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Manu Ginobili chipped in 15 points and six rebounds for the Spurs, who pulled this one out after losing in overtime in Game 6 against the Heat in the NBA Finals.
San Antonio went on to drop Game 7, but put that loss behind and had the NBA’s best record this season.
“It’s unbelievable to regain that focus after that devastating loss we had last year,” Duncan said.
In overtime, Duncan’s shot from the baseline rattled in to give the Spurs a 110-107 lead with 19 seconds to go.
Durant missed a good look at a 3-pointer, and the Spurs rebounded and went to the line. Diaw missed the first and made the second free throw to make it a four-point lead for the Spurs. Westbrook missed a wild 3-pointer, and Spurs wrapped it up.
HEAT: By now, Miami knows how the on-court celebration works. Someone distributes new hats, another hands out new T-shirts, someone hands them a gleaming trophy.
Amid it all, LeBron James simply beamed.
“We won’t take this for granted,” James said.
For the fourth consecutive time, the Heat are Eastern Conference champions – and for the third year in a row, they had to eliminate the Indiana Pacers on the way to getting there. James and Chris Bosh each scored 25 points, and Miami rolled past the Pacers 117-92 on Friday night to win the East Finals in six games.
“I’m blessed. Very blessed. Very humbled,” James said. “And we won’t take this opportunity for granted. It’s an unbelievable franchise, it’s an unbelievable group. And we know we still have work to do.”
That work starts Thursday night in San Antonio.
The Heat set a franchise record with their 11th consecutive home postseason win, going back to the final two games of last season’s NBA Finals, leading by 37 at one point.
“The group loves to compete and loves to compete at the highest level, and be pushed to new levels,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
PACERS: Larry Bird must spend the off-season trying to figure out what went wrong and what must be fixed to finally beat the Heat in the playoffs.
“You just have to go into the off-season with the mindset that we’re going to reload. We have a core, a system, a culture that’s going to give us a chance every year,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve got to make whatever adjustments we have to make to come back and be here again next year.”
Multiple media outlets reported Saturday that Vogel will return as coach, citing league sources.
Other questions remain.
Will the Pacers re-sign free agent Lance Stephenson, their 23-year-old energizer, whose erratic behavior became a major distraction in the Eastern Conference finals?
Could Roy Hibbert be on the trading block after struggling through Indiana’s confounding second-half swoon and nearly disappearing, at times, during the playoffs?
Might Bird make other moves to cope with the NBA trend of spreading the floor, add scorers or rebuild the bench yet again? Or do the Pacers simply need more time to mature?
While those answers might not come for months, one thing is clear: They must find a way to get past Miami after three consecutive playoff series losses, the past two in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Obviously, they’re more prepared, they’re more seasoned for this moment,” David West said. “They’ve been able to embrace these moments to get to a level that we, for some reason, can’t compete.”
Bird spent last summer revamping the bench, and Indiana responded with a 33-7 start — the best in the NBA.
But after signing Andrew Bynum in February and trading Danny Granger for Evan Turner at the trade deadline, the Pacers went into a confounding second-half swoon in which they looked disengaged and disinterested. Two-time All-Star Paul George acknowledged Friday that the Pacers seemed to hit a wall, thinking they could turn it on whenever they needed it.
Somehow, they still managed to finish with the best record in the East, rallied to win the final two games against eighth-seeded Atlanta after twice giving away home-court advantage and rallied again against a young Washington team after giving away home-court advantage in Game 1.
When they did it again by failing to close out the Heat at home in Game 2, Miami responded by winning all three of its home games decisively to clinch the series.
“You know at times it feels like we’re there, and then there’s games where it still feels like we’re not at that point yet,” George said when asked if he thought the Pacers had closed the gap on Miami. “Coach says it, I mean, in order for us to beat this team, we’ve got to play like champions. More times than not, we didn’t do so.”