Gooden joins usual suspects in pushing Spurs to another 50-win season

OKLAHOMA CITY -- With Manu Ginobili out through the playoffs, Drew Gooden filled in as a temporary member of San Antonio's Big Three.

Gooden scored 20 points for his highest total since joining the team last month, and the Spurs beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-89 Tuesday night in their first game since learning an ankle injury would sideline Ginobili for the rest of the season.

"Everybody's got to do that much more now collectively as a group to replace what Manu does because he brings that every night with his ability to slash and make plays," Gooden said. "We're going to be missing that a lot, but as long as we collectively make up for it, we're going to be OK."

Tim Duncan had 25 points and 15 rebounds while Tony Parker added 21 points and 10 assists, but it was an unexpected boost off the bench that helped end Oklahoma City's inexplicable mastery of the Spurs in recent weeks. The Thunder had been 3-9 in their previous 12 games, but two of the wins came against the Spurs -- including their only road win against a team over .500 this season.

Gooden, claimed off waivers from Sacramento in early March, played his most minutes since joining the Spurs and went 7-for-14 from the field and made all six of his free throws.

"Myself and Tim have to be consistent every night and then the rest of the team, whoever is hot we're going to go to," Parker said. "And tonight Drew played well."

The Spurs, who have fallen behind Denver into third place in the Western Conference, kept from losing ground as Houston, Portland and New Orleans all won in the race for home-court advantage. The Trail Blazers visit San Antonio on Wednesday night.

"If we lose this game right here, it would be a tough one because it's a team that's not making the playoffs," Gooden said. "And to lose three games to them, we're focused on something so big that we can't allow that to happen."

Duncan had three baskets in a 10-2 spurt as the Spurs pulled away after Oklahoma City had closed within one early in the fourth quarter. He pushed San Antonio's lead to 87-78 with 4:53 remaining when he picked up a loose ball under the basket and dropped it in for a layup.

Gooden iced the game with a 20-foot jumper from the left corner with just under 2 minutes left to push the lead to double digits for the first time, and Michael Finley's 3-pointer pushed the lead to 97-85.

The Spurs, who have been without Ginobili for two other extended stretches this season, moved to 18-15 without him in the lineup. With Ginobili, San Antonio was 32-12.

"It's going to be tough," Parker said. "Obviously, Manu is a big part of what we do. But you have two choices: You take it as a great challenge, or the season is going to end up real quick."

The Spurs became only the third team in NBA history to win at least 50 games in 10 straight seasons. Boston has done it twice and the Los Angeles Lakers did it once.

Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 24 points. Jeff Green added 16 points and Thabo Sefolosha had 13 points and nine rebounds.

"We tried, we scrambled, we fought, we clawed, but they made some big plays down the stretch," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team was coming off back-to-back losses totaling 53 points. "We didn't get outworked, so that's a sign we're still fighting."

For one night, Gooden was able to replace the scoring punch lost with Ginobili's 15.5-point average.

"Drew's been a big boost for us," Duncan said. "He's done a great job so far. He's still trying to get used to the offense and the calls on the fly, but all in all he's given us a really big boost."

But the Spurs don't expect to rely on Gooden to pick up the scoring load on a nightly basis.

"This is a professional team, this is a veteran team. It's not one individual guy who has to take over the load of scoring or rebounding," Finley said. "I think collectively we just have to do it as a team."

Duncan broke a 66-all tie with a free throw with 5:17 left in the third quarter and then followed it with a layup as the Spurs took the lead for good.

Oklahoma City got back within 77-76 on Shaun Livingston's jumper in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before Gooden hit two free throws and Duncan followed it with back-to-back layups to build back the Spurs' cushion.

Oklahoma City led by as many as nine in the first half before allowing the Spurs to come back and take a 51-50 lead at the half. The Thunder then scored on their first six possessions of the second half in a flurry of six quick lead changes, but then gave away a four-point edge by turning the ball over on four of their next five possessions.

Game notes
Wayman Tisdale, Oklahoma's career scoring leader, was honored after the first quarter. Tisdale was selected last week to be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November. ... Others in the crowd included former Sooners football star Brian Bosworth and rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over the weekend. ... Oklahoma City had won its last 13 games when holding an opponent below 100 points.