SAN ANTONIO -- Coming off a historic loss and on the verge of surrendering their lead atop the standings to their conference rivals across the Red River, the San Antonio Spurs did what they expected to do. They stepped up their defense and won the game.
Tiago Splitter had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Spurs to a 105-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night at the AT&T Center.
Splitter went 9-for-11 from the field and 3-for-5 from the free-throw line in the highly anticipated matchup between the teams with the best records in the Western Conference.
"You want to play well against these kind of teams, these playoff teams," said Splitter, a second-year forward from Brazil. "Of course, you feel good when you do. But you have to stay humble. It's one more game."
The Spurs (49-15) had five other players score in double figures. Kawhi Leonard had 17 points, Danny Green 16, Tim Duncan 13, Manu Ginobili 12 and Boris Diaw 11.
San Antonio continued to roll with All-Star point guard Tony Parker sidelined due to a Grade 2 sprain of his left ankle. Without Parker, the Spurs have gone 4-1, but they endured a 136-106 thrashing by the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. It was the worst loss in the 15-year Duncan era.
Kevin Durant, the NBA's scoring leader at 28.4 points per game, scored 26 points on 13 shot attempts for the Thunder (47-17). Russell Westbrook, who was 11 of 27 from the field, added 25 points, and Serge Ibaka had 13 points and 16 rebounds.
The Spurs appeared headed for a landslide loss when they trailed by 13 points in the first quarter. But they bounced back and ended the second quarter on a 26-8 run, finishing with two Ginobili free throws with five seconds left, putting San Antonio in front 57-50 at halftime.
San Antonio hit 4 of 5 three-pointers and shot 68 percent from the field in the second quarter to get back in the game.
Leonard led the Spurs' first-half scoring, collecting nine of his 11 first-half points in the final four minutes.
"Real interesting game. Real poor start for us," said San Antonio's Tim Duncan. "They shot the ball real well early on. We went through a stretch there where we started to put some stops together, made some big threes and put the pressure right back on them. Once we got control of the game, I thought we did an awesome job of just controlling it from that point."
San Antonio kept the pressure on the Thunder in the second half. The Spurs wound up forcing 19 turnovers that they turned into 25 points.
The Spurs held the Thunder to 4-of-20 shooting in the fourth quarter. San Antonio led by as many as 18 points in the final period.
"They (Spurs) hit shots, and at home you get an extra push from your crowd," said Durant. "We just have to do a better job. I know we can't be perfect throughout the entire game, but the effort has to be perfect. I think tonight it was just OK."
Oklahoma City had won its previous five games. The Thunder ousted the Spurs 4-2 in the conference finals last year, but that was when they had James Harden, who was traded to the Houston Rockets in the offseason.
The Thunder could have tied the Spurs atop the Western Conference standings with a victory, but instead fell two games behind in the race for the No. 1 seed in the West.
"We've never focused on it," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of the seedings. "We know that we have to play well to win a playoff series, and you're going to have to play well on the road to win a playoff series. No matter who you play, you're going to play a good team in the first round."
Notes: The Thunder, who defeated the Boston Celtics 91-79 on Sunday, have played 11 sets of back-to-back games this season. ... The Spurs and Thunder met for the third time this season. San Antonio won 86-84 at home on Nov. 1, and Oklahoma City prevailed 107-93 at home on Dec. 17. ... Oklahoma City has modeled its franchise after San Antonio's, and the person who
orchestrates the personnel moves is Thunder general manager Sam Presti. He worked in the Spurs front office from 2000-2007. ... San Antonio is the only NBA franchise
to have a winning percentage of .500 or better in the regular season against each of the other 29 NBA teams. ... Gold medal-winning sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross and her husband, two-time Super Bowl winner Aaron Ross, were seated in the front row. Both are University of Texas alums.